Grapes

We have trained a grape vine along the south side of the house, just above the windows. This helps shade that side of the house in the summer, which is wonderful; it also means that whenever we raise our blinds right now, we have fat bunches of grapes hanging just outside.

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Ice Dyeing

I found a tutorial on Dharma on a dyeing technique I’d never seen before: ice dyeing. I just did a trial of it, on about a yard and a half of white cotton, and it was an unqualified success.

Eclipse

We were out of the house before 6:00am, thinking that if we waited too late in the morning we’d find ourselves making a tortuously slow drive down into the path of totality. With all the dire traffic predictions I’d been hearing, I’d worried a little that Dave would lose interest in seeing the eclipse, but I shouldn’t have been concerned. After all, he was the one who’d told me to put it on my list as an activity, almost five years before.

Even that early there were a lot of cars on the road, but we still cruised along pretty well, and were in Salem getting ourselves breakfast before 7:00. None of the kids had gone back to sleep in the car, not even Mica, so we were all a bit strange and under-slept. For me that added to the sense of adventure. Dave looked up a nearby Salem park, and we got there early enough to get a parking space.

It was not a large or fancy park, seeming to exist mainly to provide two soccer fields and two baseball diamonds. On this particular morning it was dotted with the tents of people who’d dodged the traffic issue altogether. One man was cooking breakfast with the help of a camp stove and a well-stocked tailgating setup; the air smelled like sausages. We parked next to two guys fiddling with telescopes and cameras on tripods. Camp chairs were everywhere.

There was no play area, but there were sticks, some low, shrubby trees, and a pile of river rocks used for landscaping, so the kids occupied themselves pretty well. We whiled away the hours until the eclipse by talking, reading, taking children to the bathroom, and debating whether it was ok for the boys to try to break some of the rocks in order to make arrowheads. (Hint: Making arrowheads is harder than it may seem.)

During the last hour we began to check on the sun occasionally through our eclipse glasses, watching the crescent of darkness slide slowly over its face. We’d stapled a pair of glasses into a cloth mask for Mica, so we could tie it around her head, which helped me worry less about her accidentally staring at the sun. The world grew dimmer and cooler, as though heavy smoke were obscuring the sun, although it was a clear day. The shadows of the trees became composed of crescents, as though painted by an impressionist.

And then, in the last minute, the world visibly dimmed around us, until the sun was a black hole in the sky, ringed by fire. I had seen pictures of eclipses, so in a way it wasn’t a surprise. But it was beautiful and unearthly, the world suddenly twilit, with Venus presiding over the sky overhead.

Within two minutes the sun was back. Tree shadows were again made of crescents, oriented in the opposite direction from before. The boys went back to banging on rocks.

I know that the world didn’t pause during those two minutes of totality. I remember talking to Mica, who seemed unimpressed by events, and looking around at the sunset encircling the horizon, and noticing the lights of a drone over the field. But already in my memory, when I think of that black circle in the sky, it seems as though the world was holding its breath.

Swimming, Updated

Ever since getting back from the lake, Ryan has been pestering me to take them to the pool. There is simply not enough swimming in his life now, after the luxury of being next to a lake every day.

Yesterday we finally made it back into the water. Ryan was ecstatic, Mica bobbed and jumped all over the place, and even Nathan, who’d been somewhat reluctant initially, was having a great time. And then, while hanging out in the deep end so Ryan could practice treading water, Nathan swam solo for the first time.

I’m not even quite sure how it happened. He let go of the styrofoam noodle he’d been holding and just tried, and just like Ryan a couple weeks ago, found that he could dog paddle without assistance. “I can swim! I can swim!” he kept saying, and did short paddles again and again, trying out his newfound skill.

After that there was an explosion of swimming experimentation. They tried out some cautious jumps from the side of the pool (except that Mica, who was wearing a life jacket, wasn’t cautious at all; she would just plunge straight in). The boys began ducking their faces underwater to various depths, and trying some back floats. Just as we were leaving Ryan set a noodle in the water and swam underneath it.

On the way home Nathan talked about how excited his swim teacher was gong to be. Bear in mind that Nathan was the one who, during a full two terms of swim lessons (i.e., half a year), dragged his feet to every single lesson and refused to try at least half of what was suggested to him. I hadn’t even yet addressed the question of further swim lessons this year; I assumed there’d be a battle with Nathan. Apparently not.

Now Nathan has joined Ryan in pestering me to go back to the pool. We have scheduled it for our very next free day.

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Other Than Swimming

Swimming is not the only thing that happens at the lake, although some of us (Ryan and me) think it’s the best part.

This year there was a lot of rock-hunting, with piles of neat rocks pulled from the bottom of the lake and brought up to the cabin. (Sadly, there was also a winnowing-down of the rock collection before we left, which was a bit traumatic for at least one of the rock-hunters.) In that vein, we bought a book on rocks and paid a visit to a rock and crystal shop in Coeur d’Alene, looked at all kinds of near stones, and came away with a few as souvenirs. My dad also bought a bag of small crystals that we planted on the floor of the lake as treasure for the boys to hunt. They were pretty excited to start finding quartz and amythest crystals, and eventually I was forced to admit that they weren’t naturally occurring.

There was some relaxing, especially on the adult side. (In fact I noticed that adults without small children did an awful lot of reading and napping. Dave and I are looking forward to trying that sometime.) Uncle Peter’s attempts to relax were sometimes interrupted by the smallest member of the party, who clearly found him the most fascinating person there. Sometimes we would see Mica trailing after him as he moved about the cabin. Sometimes she would even appropriate his lap. It’s hard to say no to a little red-headed three-year-old.

Perhaps best of all, there were puppies. This is the second time we’ve gotten to hang out with a batch of labradoodle puppies at the lake, and it was just as awesome as it sounds. Having four warm, soft, wiggly little bodies hanging around, tearing up leaves, checking out the lake, and licking at little hands (especially after meals) escalated this vacation from wonderful to absolute paradise.

And inevitably after all that activity, there was a lot of good sleep.

Swimming

If I could, I would swim every day. I can’t remember a time I didn’t love swimming, and my memories of swimming in a lake are so potent that even today, the mere scent of lake water makes me happy.

With luck my kids are building the same association.

I was hopeful that with a couple terms of swim lessons behind them, the kids would be more adventurous in the water than they had been. It didn’t work quite that way with Mica. She’s never been particularly worried about the water, but this time around she was very selective about immersing herself. As the vacation went on, though, and especially as adults played with her in the water, she started swimming more even in deep water.

I’m happy to say that the plan worked better for both of the boys. By the time we left they were spending hours in the water; Ryan in particular was hard to pry out of it. Just at the end of our trip the kids made friends with a pair of boys down the beach, whose family had a lot of water toys. The addition of new friends and toys made them much more adventurous, and soon they were running and jumping and paddling in ways that I would never have expected last year.

And Ryan for one made the next leap, too. He took off his life jacket and discovered that he could dog paddle without any flotation — an independent swimmer at last!