Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer HOOT!

We have been blissfully trekking from one end of the country to the other this month. Last weekend we made our way to upstate New York for the HOOT music festival at Ashokan. I have been wondering how to convey how much awesomeness was packed into this three day music festival. The vibe, the people, the weather, the location, the details, and of course the MUSIC!

We drove to New Paltz to see our old friends who we visited with last year around this time. Then we all drove up to Olivebridge, NY to the Ashokan Center. Oh my, what an stunning slice of planet earth this place is. Waterfalls and mountains and forest and rolling hills and beautiful farms around every corner. We were a little unsure about how camping with four kids ages 2, 5, 8, and 9 would go, and how they would do with 3 solid days of concerts and people and activity. But it all fell so beautifully into place.

For various logistical reasons we camped in what was known as the "noisy" campsite. We planned on the quiet site, thinking it would be better for the kids to sleep and nap, but that didn't work out. So we were a little nervous about what noisy meant.

It ended up being a gift rather than a curse. Noisy is not the right word, they should have named it the amazing musical campsite. Extremely talented musicians were all around us and in this campsite the deal was that they could make music anytime they wanted 24/7. Now this was not Lollapalooza, so we're talking folk music, easy going, really fabulous guitar, banjo, fiddle, ukulele, and the like. I am talking really talented people making really good music, music you would pay to hear but they were just jamming (and this wasn't even an official part of the festival!) I was a little shocked when I made a 2am trip to the port-o-potty and heard soft singing voices in perfect 3-part harmony along with a variety of string instruments going strong. Sure enough, they were out there. I was serenaded under a full moon. The kids stayed asleep and I got to listen throughout the night and I drifted in and out of sleep.

Around 7am we realized that being in the noisy campsite was a good choice for another reason. Uh, kids are not exactly quiet. Especially our kids. Especially our kids catching frogs (man there were A LOT of frogs too!) Sorry late night music makers! They were incredibly gracious about it.

The festival was so well organized and really kid friendly. There were food vendors for folks who were just in for the day or if you didn't want to cook at your campsite the whole time. There was ice cream, of course! There were very clean bathrooms, showers!, two different kids areas with games and crafts and water. There was a hands on blacksmith class for the kids. And yet overall it was very intimate, calm, family friendly, and not crowded at all.

But the reason we came, of course, was the music. Oh the music!

So many new amazing acts to hear, kids dancing in the field, and a solar powered stage! For me the highlight of the whole weekend was getting to hear Elizabeth Mitchell who was performing with Dan Zanes. She is literally the soundtrack to Naia's childhood so far, and we adore her music and all that she does (not to mention her beautiful music videos are the only way I get Naia's hair combed and braided in the mornings!) This is the second time we've seen them in concert and they were so energetic and so genuine, it was such a treat. And then of course having not just Dan Zanes on stage... but... Natalie Merchant too (she had done a solo set the night before, but we only caught a little of it because it was way past tired kids hour!)

The centerpiece of the whole festival though was right after Elizabeth Mitchell when Pete Seeger performed and chatted on stage. He is truly a legend and yet also so real and genuine. 94 years old, he is the taproot of the whole folk and children's music world today as we know it. Even if you don't think you know a Pete Seeger song, trust me you do. Have you ever sat around a campfire and sang with people? Have you ever done a sing along at camp or school? Have you ever hummed a tune and you're not sure who wrote it, but it's just in your veins since you can remember. Then you know Pete Seeger's music. He's the grand-daddy of them all.

It was really cool to see performers become audience members as everyone hushed to hear him do his thing on stage.

Finally, Elizabeth Mitchell and her family, and Natalie Merchant, Jay and Molly Ungar, Mike + Ruthy, and so many more joined Seeger on stage for a moving sing along of Turn, Turn, Turn with lyrics Seeger's recently deceased wife Toshi wrote especially for children and This Land Is Your Land. (You can see a wonderful photo of it here.) There wasn't a dry eye at the festival at this point.

So, the question is... who's coming next year?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

things I learned on my summer vacation

We have been going and going the last couple of weeks. And as we dashed from a rental house on Chincoteague Island to road tripping to our family cabin on Lake Michigan to visiting my brothers in Chicago I learned a few things worthy of a first day of school essay.

~ My kids are not inside people. I had this idea that renting a house would be such a huge treat for the kids. They. Went. Bonkers. It was almost funny watching them roam circles around the house not quite knowing what to do with themselves. Zach finally found a tree to climb out back. Naia just kept asking me where the cockpit was. Then we'd drive the 5 minutes to the beach and all would be right in their little hearts and minds.

~ Speaking of houses, sleeping on land sucks. Seriously, how do you all do it? It's like a sensory deprivation experiment. Who can get any rest at all in a still, quiet, temperature controlled box? When we travel from now on I think I need to pack a hammock.

~ Flushing toilets rock. There is no getting around that. So nice not to pump.

~ One funny about TV. We gave ours up while I was pregnant with Zach. And while he is old enough now that he gets to see movies and some kids stuff on the laptop, he's never really operated a television before. There was one in the house we rented, and he quickly figured out how to turn it on and was quite proud of himself. He was having a ball watching Veggie Tales every now and then. And other times he'd wander in to us and say that the TV "had all kinds of boring religious stuff on." I finally realized that although he figured out how to turn it on and off and work the volume, he had NO idea what channels were. He figured whatever was on the box was what you watched and you were stuck with that. And it happens that the channel that was on when we got to the house was a Christian family channel. Doug and I were cracking up and decided not to tell him about channels because we didn't want him in front of the tube anyhow.

~ There is nothing better than time with Grandma. Maybe it's precisely because we only get to see them once every 2 or so years, but the kids just savor all the grandma time and she has that special touch with them.

~ My girl hates to be buckled down. I am sure this is a trait that will serve her well when she overthrows a small island nation and declares herself ruler for life. However, when we are driving 1800 miles round trip it becomes a problem.

~ Endless supplies of homemade chocolate chip cookies with dark chocolate chips can solve most problems.

~ Lake Michigan is the Midwest's best kept secret. Seriously, look at that fresh, clear water and those sandy white beaches. Shhhhhh. Don't tell.

~ You can't go home again. This was the first time I went back to Chicago and the Midwest and felt completely and totally like an outsider. The grocery stores, the accents, the everything. I used to feel a pang of home coming here and I just don't anymore. I have a lot of love for Chicago but I can never live there again. I admit it, I am totally an east coast girl now.

~ Family makes it all worth while. The driving. The whining. The sugar crashing. The crappy food. The sleepless nights. But look at this face. That is my newest baby nephew. Seriously, he is delicious. And my oldest niece is growing into such a terrific young lady. I sound like a 40 year old when I say that (oh wait, I AM a 40 year old now!) But she is such a cool kid. Getting to see all of the nieces and nephews was fabulous.

~ I love having a big 9 year old around to help me. He is SUCH a fabulous travel companion, I would take this kid anywhere. It's such a welcome balance to Super Toddler 2000 who cried about missing the boat and daddy the whole time and hates being in the car. He was a HUGE help from carrying bags to feeding his sister in the back seat to dialing up daddy to calm her down and helping with navigation. And his genuine enthusiasm for each new turn in the road makes it so worth while.

~ And finally, don't hit the ball with full grown up force when playing beach volleyball with the kids. Don't ask. Let's just say it was not one of my finer parenting moments and the bleeding stopped after 10 minutes or so.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

that (weed) garden

Remember all that hope and promise in spring and early summer with the seeds planted and the garden plot we took over at a community nursery? Yeah. Well, about that garden...

(Look, can't you see our bounty of tomatoes? Yeah, me neither.)

(Doug tries to be enthusiastic about the weed patch.)

Ya see, the plot is rather far from the marina. And we have been traveling. And it's been a really rainy summer so every time it rains, I just shrug and say, "Oh good, now I don't have to drive out there to water the garden!" And I have a toddler whose naps are all over the place when they happen at all (heaven help me she is starting to outgrow napping!) And.. and... and... Ok! Fine! I am the world's worst gardener and that's probably why living on a boat suits me so well. I have that fantasy of neatly planted rows of green nutrition to fill baskets hand woven by organic women's co-ops in Central America. I walk through the rows with my children skipping and singing behind me I wear shabby looking $180 garden shoes and a swishy skirt and plan the vegetarian dishes that my children who eat anything will gratefully gobble up after setting a beautiful table and saying a meal blessing.


Here's how it goes down. We drive to the weed patch, I mean garden plot and 37 seconds after exiting the air conditioned car Zach starts to get paranoid about ticks. Legitimate concern as we end up with a tick every single time we go there and we are one of the worst spots in the USA for Lyme disease (sadly many of his friends have it.) He gets over it and runs to the plot to see what's growing, full of verbal enthusiasm, remarking how fabulous it will be to eat (insert whatever managed to grow here) and how excited he is that something he planted actually grew. Yes! That's the spirit! I tell him to pick said thing and let's bring it home.

Then he goes to inspect closer and sees a flaw. It has mud or mush or marks of some kind on it and game over. "I can't eat this, it's rotten!" No honey, it's fine. We grew it, we know it's fine. We just cut that part away.  During this negotiation I realize I haven't heard any sounds from Naia. I look around and find her squatting down in the tall, tick infested grass. "Whatcha doing over there?"  She smiles. "I go potty!" Ok, it's all fertilizer right? Zach is about to freak out over her communing with nature, but thankfully a toad hops by and he's off. I try to get them excited about pulling weeds. Naia of course can't tell a weed from an edible thing and starts ripping up the carrots and kale and strawberries that never had fruit.

Then Zach brings me a praying mantis in one hand and a toad in the other and excitedly tells me there is a HUGE snake right over there.

"Ok kids, let's get in the car, I think we are finished with gardening for this month."

We take our tortured carrots and handful of tomatoes and basil and hit the road. Back at home I bathe the kids in Deet to ward off the deer ticks and we wash off our harvest.
 (Love those knuckle dimples!)

 (Looks halfway decent!)

 (RUN for your lives!)

At dinner Naia pokes at her carrots. "I don't like these?"
"Honey these are your carrots that YOU planted."
"They look stretchy. I want shiny ones."
"No sweety, you need to eat these. This is what we're having with our dinner."
"No, they're scary. I am going to throw them in the dirty water."  (this is her new thing. anything that is not to her liking gets metaphorically and sometimes literally thrown into the "dirty water")

Ah, yes. From farm to table. That's us. So, who wants to go fishing?

Monday, August 12, 2013

sunset junque shop

Along the coast of Lake Michigan where our family has had a cabin for 32 years there are beaches and blueberries and vineyards and sunsets.

But one of my favorite Michigan spots since I was a girl is the Sunset Junque Shop. This quirky little side road joint is part antique shop, part freak show, part junk yard, part museum, part treasure chest. It always makes me happy that I don't own a house when I go here, or I might walk out with a very empty wallet and all kinds of crazy junk (or junque!)

The kids had fun exploring here with their cousins, well Naia napped in the car the whole time but Zach always loves this place.

Back home now and recovering from 1700+ miles of driving with the 2 kids in my wee Honda Civic all while trying to deny that I was sick as a dog. Ends up I have bronchitis. Blah. So happy to be back on the boat and moping around in my own little floating home while I recover.

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