So around Thanksgiving last year we were looking ahead to Summer 2016. We decided to keep it low-key and open since we are headed to Florida in October. It has always been our desire to stay in a yurt along the Oregon coast. We booked a two-day camping trip in late July which we are still planning on doing.
However, by around Christmas low-key summer quickly changed into busy travel summer. The husband’s brother had the idea to plan a family reunion celebrating their parent’s 40th anniversary and their mom’s 60th birthday. Between the four brothers (my husband is the oldest) we represented Oregon, two cities in Alberta & Iowa. Meeting in the middle would mean a fabulous vacation to Kansas…um…no. We looked at a few locations and settled on the Michigan lake shore just north of the Indiana border. We rented a cottage that was supposed to sleep 24. We crammed 19 people in it and we were full. Not sure where those other five would sleep…the living room couches?
Since we were traveling all the way to Michigan, it made sense for us to see my family in west Michigan and Chicago. My sister lives in Grand Rapids. My parents live in Chicago but are moving back to the Grand Rapids area end of July. So we thought this would be a great “last chance Chicago tour” before they become Michiganders for life.
But I need to back up a bit. I had committed to attending a middle school camp in Washington I was a counselor at last summer. Even though I came home sleep deprived, worn out and somewhat discouraged from some issues among our leadership team, I could sense God was at work in this ministry. There is truth that God works through brokenness and weakness and uses the “drama” in ministry for good. He was calling me to continue to be a part of it.
Not many can volunteer to spend six full days with middle schoolers in the middle of the forest sleeping on a thin camp mattress drinking Kool-Aid for most meals. Even though I am pushing 40, I
enjoy it can survive it with a good attitude.
Camp was moved to early June not long after school let out as opposed to mid July from last year. One of the advantages of this was not feeling like you are sleeping in a sauna at night and having less dehydrated kids who needed to carry water bottles everywhere. Around Christmas the husband was asked to be the chapel speaker and I was asked to be head counselor. The oldest child was old enough to be a camper. So because three out of the five of us were going it meant number one we got to the take younger two along as staff kids and number two we got to stay in a family cabin thus no skinny camp beds. We stayed in a little house complete with an old school VCR and library of VHS tapes for entertainment…the only kid friendly one was a strange version of Snow White.
We had an incredible week of praise and worship, crazy camp games, hiking, swimming, archery, new friends and more. All the drama from last year was no more. Our team worked cohesively and we learned from our previous mistakes. God is good.
Our summer has gone so far like this: the kids were out of school June 8, I worked until June 16, and we spent the weekend of the 17th cleaning the house and packing. On June 20 we left for Naches, Washington for the week of middle school camp. We came home from camp Friday, June 24. We spent Saturday, June 25 cleaning again, unpacking and re-packing, weeding the garden, and running errands. On Sunday, June 26 we visited with friends from Ukraine who were in town. We awoke at 2 in the morning on Monday, June 27 and drove (telling the kids to be quiet and at least pretend like they were sleeping) to the airport where we flew to Chicago and then drove to Michigan.
Even though we were exhausted, going to bed at 9 PM in Michigan did not work…our bodies were saying, “Hey it’s only 6 PM…aren’t we supposed to be eating dinner???” Thankfully we fell asleep and adjusted to Michigan time quickly.
We stayed in the Warren Dunes area from June 27 until Friday, July 1st. I love the Michigan lake shore.
My husband and I lived seven miles from the lake from 2001 until 2004 and that is one of the parts of Michigan I truly miss. The kids got to hike the dunes, swim in the lake (though it was not much warmer than the Oregon ocean), build sand castles, and bask in the sun…okay well some days it was cloudy. We got much quality time with the husband’s family and playtime with cousins we don’t get to see very often.
Then we drove north to Grand Rapids where we stayed until Sunday, July 3. We spent time visiting old friends and spending time with my sister’s family. I think the kids enjoyed riding electric scooters and playing video games. I enjoyed having a campfire in my sister’s backyard and seeing all the fireflies scurrying around. We don’t have fireflies in Oregon…we also don’t have as many nasty mosquitoes that managed to bite up my ankles.
Then we drove south again looping around the lake and staying in Chicago (Palos Heights to be exact…suburb of Chicago) where we celebrated the 4th of July. Apparently most Chicago suburbs set off fireworks on July 3rd. My parents got secret information that the best less crowded place to see the fireworks is at a nearby train station. We were blessed to watch fireworks in a quieter area and not fight major traffic.
We went to a parade the following morning. It was like trick or treating! The amount of candy my kids went home with was crazy. Not to mention frisbees, popsicles, and mini basketballs. My dad said their suburb has more money so that means better candy at the parade…my kids are used to little cheapie hard candies.
Our last final day (yesterday) we took the train to downtown Chicago and went up in the Sears Tower which is now the Willis Tower. I learned Sears Roebuck and Company has no offices whatsoever in the building anymore.
We ran in the fountains afterwards at Millenium Place. We had Chicago pizza for dinner.
We flew home last night at 10 PM Chicago time. The terminal was streaming with people trying to get to Minneapolis and stranded due to thunderstorms. I was thankful we were headed further west to Portland. Although we did hit those storms and I felt the worst tuburlance ever. I was grateful for not being motion sick and that the kids slept through the whole thing. Even though the younger two planned on only sleeping half the flight so they would not miss the drink service, all three kids slept almost the whole flight. We were in our house by 2 AM…that time is becoming all too familiar.
I talk too much about Michigan with my Oregon friends. I probably talk too much about Oregon with my Michigan friends. It is a blessing to have multiple places in the country you love in different ways. Being in Michigan brought back many good memories and reconnecting with old friends was simply picking up with where we left off. While there are some things I will always miss about the Midwest, I am grateful for our life in the Pacific Northwest. There are advantages about living in multiple places and moving is not as terrible as people sometimes make it out to be.
On our Midwest vacation we saw both sets of parents, all three of my husband’s brothers and their spouses/significant others, my sister and her husband, eight out of ten nieces/nephews, two of my aunts, two of my uncles, one cousin and his spouse and their three kids (second cousins). Not to mention five friends from high school and their spouses and all their kids (a total of 9 kids not including ours) plus a friend from high school/college and his wife.
We drove by two colleges we attended along with the seminary my husband graduated from. We also swung by two of the three house I lived during my childhood and adult years in Grand Rapids along with the house my sister lived in soon after she got married. My kids were very sick of driving by buildings they did not have much historical ties to. Mom and Dad’s stories got a bit boring after a while.
So low-key summer turned into busy travel summer right from the beginning. Here it is only July 6 and I am exhausted and somewhat crabby. I feel like the summer is over. Seeing it is going to be in the 60’s this weekend and rain–I am not sure summer in Oregon has officially arrived yet.
When the husband and I were looking back at the last couple weeks (and it feels like we have been gone a month) we can only give thanks to God for providing us the opportunities to be with many people. From Mountain Dew drinking middle schoolers who love to slide on shaving cream slip and slides while at the same time ask big questions about God to parents in their 60’s and 70’s who show a devout love for God and their family. I am not taking these experiences for granted and I am grateful God made a way for us to spend the beginning of our summer in places that are near and dear to us.