While Annelise has been attending some form of “school” since she was 7 months old and we’ve always had a summer break, something felt different with Kindergarten looming at the end of this summer. I think mostly it was just knowing that school starts to count now, and for the next 13 years our plans will be at the mercy of the public school system’s schedule. Annelise is already starting to worry about what happens next year as she’ll most likely be attending a school that starts mid-August, and that will interfere with the County Fair. I’ve told her that if it is that important to her I’ll take her out of school for a day or two to attend the fair (someday she’ll figure out that the Oceana County Fair is not that big a deal).
When I was a kid my summers were book-ended by the Asparagus Festival and the County Fair. That’s basically been the case for Annelise. We missed the Fair when she was an infant, but even when we were in Virginia our two summer trips back were during those times. And while we’ve been living in Michigan they’ve continued to be the unofficial start and end to the summer.
I still had classes until the end of June, so our summer mostly consisted of July, and August. Due to our many illnesses over the winter, I didn’t have any vacation time, so we were limited on trips we could take, but we made the best of it.
We took three trips, that were the highlights of our summer and then filled in the rest of the time with outings to the beach and the park, bike rides, picnics, and hikes. I worked really hard to get us out of the house as much as possible. The thing I hate most about our current living situation is that we are on the upper level of an apartment building. I know a slamming screen door is suppose to be an annoyance, but I would give just about anything to hear one as Annelise moves freely between the indoors and outdoors. She did get to spend quite a bit of time with my parents in Hart. Typically she was there for at least two days a week while I was working and sleeping. That at least got her out of our tiny apartment for a little bit each week.
Overall it was a wonderful summer and I think both of us are disappointed that it is coming to an end. Annelise is excited to start school (she can’t wait to learn to read) and we’ll both be embarking on new adventures soon.
The Asparagus Festival usually falls close to my birthday. This year my birthday was mid week and due to work and class I didn’t even get to see Annelise on that day. She spent the week in Hart and then I joined her for the weekend. We celebrated my birthday with a bike ride to the Brown Bear via the rail trail, and then participated in all the usual Asparagus Festival activities, the craft fair, parade, and Fly In Breakfast. We also enjoyed dinner and strawberry shortcake at Open Hearth.
Fourth of July
We had two opportunities to watch the fireworks. Oceana County typically has three nights of fireworks. In Hart on the second, Pentwater on the third, and Silver Lake on the fourth. We went to both the Hart and Pentwater shows. In Hart we rode our bikes to John Gurney Park. This was Annelise’s first real night ride and she was very excited to use her lights. We convinced Grandma and Grandpa to join us for the Pentwater fireworks on the beach, where Grandpa gave her a lesson on harbor lights.
In the spring Annelise came to me and said that she didn’t think dinosaurs were real because she can’t find any fossils. So I decided to take her somewhere to see fossils that have already been found. Technically a trip to the Field Museum could have been done in a day, the train leaves Grand Rapids at 6 am, and the return train leaves Chicago at 6:30 pm. But I figured that would be too long of a day for a five year old so we turned it into an overnight trip.
Everything about this trip fell together perfectly. I ordered a couple of new books to surprise her with on the train including Dr. Scott’s (her paleontologist hero) “You can be a Paleontologist.” Our hotel room turned out to be a suite the size of our apartment, the weather was perfect and the museum had a temporary exhibit called Jurassic World, which was basically Jurassic Park brought to life.
We had to get up early to catch the Amtrak train out of Grand Rapids. I let Annelise sleep in her clothes so it would be easy to get her out of bed and ready to go. I was hoping that maybe she’d fall asleep on the train but she didn’t. We had breakfast on the train and then read stories (she was very excited about the new Dr. Scott book) and then she watched some videos while I knit.
I love travelling by train but I was a little nervous about this trip. This was the first time I had gone anywhere with Annelise without our vehicle. I felt a little insecure without having control direct control of our transportation and also limited by what we could carry in our suitcases.
Once we got to Chicago, everyone was extremely friendly and helpful as I relearned how to navigate the subway system (while hauling our luggage and trying to keep track of a preschooler). My biggest fear was that we would somehow get separated and I fully prepared Annelise for how to get help if that happened. But we did fine and arrived at our hotel without any problems. By the end of the weekend we were public transportation pros.
We arrived in the morning but check in wasn’t until mid-afternoon. I went to the hotel anticipating checking our luggage before heading out into the city, but when we got to the hotel they said our room was ready. It was so nice to be able to unload, and relax for a bit. And our “room” was incredible. It included a kitchen, dining area, living room, separate bedroom, and bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub.
After getting settled we walked around the city, got lunch and did some basic site seeing. We didn’t do a lot. Annelise was very anxious to get back to the hotel so she could swim.
After we got back to the hotel we swam in the pool. I fixed Annelise supper of mac and cheese in the room and then ordered room service for myself. We went to the pool one more time and then had popcorn in our room while watching the traffic below our window. After Annelise went to bed, I finished off the leftovers from my gourmet meal, got a drink from the hotel bar, and soaked in the tub. It was heavenly.
The next morning we headed to the Field Museum. As soon as we arrived, Annelise headed straight toward Sue (a T-Rex Fossil). While we were checking out Sue a museum volunteer approached us and asked Annelise if she would like to hold some fossils. She gave her a couple of fossils and a magnifying glass to look at them. This could have completed our trip. Annelise was in awe of Sue and so excited to touch real fossils. But of course there was more to see. After visiting Sue we went to the Evolving World Exhibit (which included a lot of cast of dinosaur fossils). And while that was only a small fraction of the museum that was all we saw. She really wasn’t interested in seeing anything other than dinosaurs and fossils. I figure there will be more trips in the future and we’ll eventually branch off into other exhibits, but for now I’d follow her interests.
The Jurassic World exhibit was pretty incredible (and a little terrifying for Annelise). I think for a little bit she truly believed that they had brought dinosaurs back to life. Thankfully I had brought her Boos and earphones. The earphones blocked some of the stimulation and the Boos comforted her. There was some clinging and maybe even a little fearful crying, but we made it through. At the end they had several interactive activities that she enjoyed.
After Jurassic World we had a late lunch and then watched a 3D documentary on the discovery of Sue. I wasn’t sure it would hold Annelise’s attention but she said it was her favorite part. It chronicled the steps that where taken once Sue was found, it followed very closely and used the same terminology as her Dr. Scott book, “You can be a Paleontologist.” After the movie we went back to see Sue again. Annelise was very fascinated with her (and her head, which is kept separate).
Our train left Chicago at 6:30, so I made sure we had plenty of time to get back to the hotel, collect our bags and get to the train station. I again thought she would sleep on the way home, but she stayed awake until about an hour before we pulled into our station.
Overall it was a wonderful trip, and even before we were home we were making plans to go back. We going to add the aquarium next time. Annelise has also decided that she wants to work at the Field Museum once she is a paleontologist.
Our next trip was to Virginia for FloydFest. My GPS gave me different directions than it usually does taking me south through Kalamazoo and then into Indiana (usually we go over to Ann Arbor and then down into Ohio). At first I was going to just go with what we usually do, but then saw that would be fairly close to where my Grandparents use to live I decided to take a side trip and show Annelise the house my mom grew up in. It also gave us an opportunity to visit my Grandparent and Great Grandparent’s graves.
I loved my Grandparents house and spent a lot of time there as a child. I have so many fond memories of spending time there. It was sold after my grandpa died, and I openly admit to stalking the new owners online. They’ve totally redone it and it looks amazing. I don’t think I want to see what it’s like inside. In my mind it’s still the way it was when I would visit.
The last couple of years when we’d go back for FloydFest, we’d take extra time and spend about a week in Roanoke either before or after the Festival. This year that didn’t happen. Due to my lack of vacation time and commitments back in Michigan, we arrived the day before FloydFest and returned to Michigan straight from the festival. So we had one day in Roanoke and that was it. We had just about enough time to have coffee at our favorite coffee place, visit our favorite shops to update my fall wardrobe, visit the Star and have breakfast with a coworker. Then it was off to FloydFest.
In all our years of going to FloydFest, I have never managed to take decent pictures. I think it’s mainly because my phone which also functions as the camera spends most of its time off, or left in the tent. I try to carry as little with me as possible, typically just my cup and some cash.
This year’s FloydFest was a little different. It wasn’t roasting hot and it was rainy. It always rains at some point, but this year it rained a lot and when it wasn’t raining it was colder than usual. It was actually a nice break from the heat. It seems like every year we’re just trying to find some relief. It was nice to throw on a light jacket and feel comfortable.
This year the kids were also much more independent. They could be trusted to play in Children’s Universe without direct parental supervision. It was nice to be able to sit in the campsite and send them off to do their thing or to be able to go off by myself to get something or hear a band. This was our fourth FloydFest. I made the comment to Annelise that she’s been to almost every FloydFest since she was alive. One morning we were walking back from the bathrooms and someone commented that it has been so nice watching the kids grow from year to year.
Our last trip was to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I camped in the UP when I was a kid, but haven’t been back in probably 20 years. While we were living in Michigan there were several things I wanted to do with Annelise and one of them was a camping trip to the UP. Since I didn’t have any vacation time, I shifted my schedule a little and we took a long weekend. We had three days and I had three things planned for us to do. We didn’t do any of them. I again followed my daughter’s agenda. A laid back, no plans weekend was probably what I needed too. Since we were so iffy on our plans I didn’t make any reservations and instead we just bought a map, picked a campground and headed that way. We camped at the mouth of the Two Hearted River. It was a rustic State Campground right on Lake Superior. It was quite a ways out of the way, down dirt roads, and beyond cell coverage. On the way up I really began to feel like we were in the middle of nowhere. I had to drive through an area that had burned in 2012 and still looked pretty desolate. The road was rough and at times I couldn’t go faster than 10 mph. It felt like we were all alone, but when we got to the campground it was practically full. Turns out its quite a popular spot.
We set up our campsite and that’s when we decided we were going to stay put instead of going out everyday. The area was beautiful. Annelise was immediately off on her bike. There were several other families in the campground and it wasn’t too long before she found kids to play with. There was a wide variety of campers. A lot of them were there to ride ORVs on the trails in the area. There were some solo campers that were hiking or kayaking in the area. And some were just campers that came back year after year because they liked the area.
The first day we went back into town (an almost hour and a half trip) for a few supplies that we forgot. On the way back we stopped at a Bear Ranch. We had the opportunity to pet a bear cub and see the 40 bears that they have there.
We spent the rest of the time in and around the campground. We rode bikes, hiked on the trails in the area, played on the beach, and collected rocks. At night after supper we would play cards at the campsite until the sun would start to set. Practically everyone in the campground would walk out to the beach to watch it. Then Annelise and I would make s’mores, play a few more games before crawling into bed. After reading to her, I’d usually slip back out of the tent and sit by the fire to do a little reading before turning in myself. Our last night after it was dark I took her on a night hike. We went back down to the beach and laid in the sand to look at the stars. When I pointed out the big dipper, she exclaimed, “Wow, the big dipper is real!?!” One afternoon we sat on the beach and watched a kayaker attempt to enter the mouth of the river from the lake. This piqued Annelise’s interest in kayaking. I didn’t make it happen on this trip, but next time we’re going to do some kayaking. One of the things I had wanted to do was to see Pictured Rocks. We would have had to do it from a ferry. But since we didn’t make it, it’s still on our list of things to do, and maybe in a couple of years she’ll be able to do by kayak.
On our way home we stopped in Mackinaw City after crossing the bridge to stock up on fudge. We had a picnic in the park near the Fort. When I explained to her what it was she expressed an interest in seeing it. We didn’t have time this trip, but I think in the next couple of years we may plan a Mackinaw vacation.
Those were our big vacation type trips. The rest of our summer was filled with…
This was Annelise’s third summer riding with the Dirt Dawgs. She moved up to the pedal group, which meant that I didn’t need to tag along on their rides. Mondays became one of my favorite days of the week as she would ride with her team, I would ride by myself. It was so nice to be back in the saddle again.
Annelise also had her first race on a pedal bike. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to do it. She’s not very competitive. I told her that we were going to go and cheer on her teammates and if she decided to race she could. She decided to race and did a great job. She ended up finishing third. She was so proud of herself. She told me she was glad I signed her up and then she’d say, “Mom did you know I was the third fastest girl?”
Annelise took swimming lessons through the YMCA this summer. She is still in the most very introductory class. She can float on her back, but still struggles to put her face in the water. She’s signed up to take classes into the fall and I figure we’re going to keep doing it until she’s swimming independently.
We visited both the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and Sandcastles in Ludington. I preferred Sandcastles, it seemed better organized and less chaotic. But it was nice to have the option of either. Whenever we went to Ludington we’d also go to the House of Flavors for lunch and when we were in GR we’d go to Buffalo Wild Wings. I tried to save the museums for rainy days; fortunately we didn’t have too many of those.
Lewis Farm Market
The Farm Market is always one of our favorite summer activities. This year we made a little goat friend. He always seemed to be out and wondering free while we were there. Of the all the goats there he was the only one to figure out how to escape. Last year Annelise refused to go into the Aviary. She didn’t like the birds. But now that she knows that birds can be classified as dinosaurs she was very eager to go in and study them.
John Ball Zoo
There was a day at the zoo with cousins.
We had several beach days in Pentwater and at Kirk Park. Annelise loved to play in the sand building castles and digging holes.
Parks and Picnics
This would definitely be the summer of picnics. We hit up several parks, did some nature walks and took picnics every opportunity that we could. I think one of the easiest ways for us to get outside was to ride our bikes to a park and have a picnic. We discovered some new parks, one with some nature trails, and another with a splash pad.
Annelise got an overdose of the Fair this year. Typically we go on Children’s Day, but my work schedule got in the way again. I took her on Entry Day for a preview. She went with her aunts and cousins on children’s day while I was working and sleeping. And then on Saturday I took her. Since it was just the two of us I needed to go on the rides with her. Thankfully she told me that Aunt Charity had taken her on the Ferris wheel the day before because she knew it scared me. Repeats on the Tilt-a-whirl did a number on me and I suddenly felt very old. She won another fish to go with the two she won last year. We toured the barn several times. She was very into the animals this year and got attached to a particular calf named Chomper.
Tomorrow she starts Kindergarten. We’ve spent the last official weekend of summer being lazy and just hanging around the apartment getting ready for school. I had contemplated one more camping trip but I think we both needed some down time. There’s barely a break before fall activities start up. Dance begins this week, and swim lessons will resume next week. Our next adventure will be a trip to a YMCA camp in New York to meet up with other SMC families. We are very excited about it. In addition to connecting with other families like ours, I’ll get to meet some friends that I’ve known for years, but never met in person, and the Catskills in early fall should be beautiful.