Sunday, August 06, 2017

Bucket List: 5 summer weeks

The Idea

I love the fact that our children will likely grow up in one city and truly have a home base. But I don't want them to have a limited understanding of this world, seeing it only from their city doorstep. A few years back I told Jacob my goal for our family was to relocate for five weeks in the summer. I loved the idea of staking claim to new spots and spending enough time in a new place to have it feel like home, if only for a little while. I was insistent on the "5 weeks" duration because I know how quickly a normal vacation passes and I felt to really discover a new place, you'd need enough time to allow some true settling in.

My initial five week big dream trip was to return to Hawaii where Jacob and I lived from 2006-2008.  The students I taught for both 2nd and 3rd grade would be graduating from high school in the summer of 2017 so what a perfect time to return and what an amazing spot to share with our kids. Enter reality. There was just no way we could afford a trip like that when we were launching a brand new business. This became clear last summer, so Jacob and I tossed out ideas of other ways to relocate for the summer, but none of them made particular sense for our family right now.

Then, light bulb moment. What about my family's lake house in South Carolina? It was sitting largely unused. I myself had not been there for 10 years and hadn't spent significant time there for 20 years so it wasn't really top of mind. But once it occurred to me, the idea seemed perfect. SO MUCH green space. A chance to explore a different geography. A chance to share my home state with my children. A mere hour's drive from my parents and sister, so plenty of options for help for the roughly 3.5 weeks Jacob wouldn't be able to stay.

The Lake House (Summerton, SC)
So much green space!
My grandparents generously agreed to our idea. This left several months to map the trip out and for anticipation to build. My last day at ReNEW would be June 30th; we would leave for SC July 1st. We requested books and audiobooks from the library, packed up a bunch of puzzles, toys, bathing suits, and the Costco staples I didn't think we could live without and Jacob, the kids, and I made the 12 hour drive to SC in one day.

I could write many posts detailing the experience of this summer, but I'll shorten it to 4 highs, 3 lows, and 3 MVPs (which is how we share about our days at the dinner table).


1) I've gotten to reconnect with my family. This wasn't part of the original thinking for a summer away, but it has been one of the most special parts of this summer. Cora, Jack, and Luke love their cousins Billy and Owen but don't see them nearly enough and it was really special to see how much they enjoyed each other, having sleepovers together, and getting lots of play time. Same goes for my parents and Aunt Kristen and Uncle William.  And lagniappe, I got to spend time with my grandparents, aunts, and uncles, as did J, C, and L.

All 5 Owen grandchildren: Jack, Cora, Billy, Luke, and Owen

Charleston Day Trip with the Hardaways

Aunt Kristen comes to the lake and capsizes the canoe :)

Great Aunt Rosie gives us a local history tour of Summerton and the Lake Marion area
2) WIDE OPEN days.  These were both thrilling and daunting, but mainly thrilling. We had the option to go NOWHERE. We had a huge swath of green grass to play on, murky water to swim in (only scary to me; the kids LOVED it), and a 40+ year old home from which to uncover treasures. To ward off the daunting side of the open days, I kept up our summer tradition of a daily schedule and that helped me wrap my mind around the day before it started. Best days were when I embraced being outside and the need to play hard. Best afternoon was when I let everyone pick their favorite activity and we rode bikes, jumped off the dock, went on a canoe ride, and swam in the lake. Owen, what do you think we should put on today's schedule?

3) Conquering a new place. This was what I was hoping for in the adventure of going somewhere new and it didn't disappoint.  I loved taking the country back roads to nearby towns and enjoying the quiet and seeing the scenery of southern towns. I loved rescuing our little box of caterpillars from the Summerton post office by calling and talking to postmaster Bill who found our box labeled "return to sender"as I hadn't realized the lake house didn't have a mail box. (The caterpillars were our summer pets who we got to watch turn into butterflies.) I loved being in a small town where it was that simple to track something down and get helped out. I loved getting to attend several services/events at the church where my aunt has been the organist for 30 years. I loved being welcomed in a way that is very Southern and having my children get to see that faith translates across distance. I loved finding activities in a new town and making ourselves at home for the summer. Jack and Cora earned the Clarendon County Library summer reading medals just as they did in New Orleans before we left home :) I love that my aunt and my mom loaned us their library cards and how free books and movies make for cheap entertainment.

Peggy Parish, Amelia Bedelia author, hailed from Clarendon County

4) Self-confidence boost. The night before Jacob left I was feeling some major doubts about my ability to do ALL the things for our family in a new place. This was boiling down to one main point in my mind: how was I going to both cook bacon and clean the pan (examples of things I never do.) I very quickly encountered situations where I normally would call in Jacob: when Luke locked and shut doors and I couldn't see how to pop them open, when the drawer with every vital kitchen tool was jammed shut, when I had to load the bike trailer and bikes on the car by myself for the first time. Each of those brought a mild moment of panic but in the end I figured them all out (even if the first required a call to my dad and the last about 8 Face Time calls to Jacob).  But the point is that the second, third, and fourth times I put the bike trailer on the car, it wasn't hard. That was a good lesson for me: if I can just get past the hard and learn the new thing, then it isn't even hard anymore.

Pancakes AND bacon for four :)


1) All the children, all the time. There were many days when 1 or 2 children would nap but 1 wouldn't and I'd end up hanging with the non-napping child during the afternoon and then hanging with the 1 or 2 wide-awake children till 10:00.  And Luke developed a lake habit of waking around 3:00 a.m. and moving over to my bed. He (and I) would then take about 45 minutes to settle back into sleep but then even though Luke would likely sleep late, a sibling would wake me up full of energy pre-7:00. While this did cause several moments of hyperventilation on my part, it wasn't as hard as it would have been if it had happened in my New Orleans life because I quite simply didn't have as much on my plate. Also, the kids were good (at times) at entertaining themselves with puzzles, books, LEGOs, drawing, and watching Atlanta Braves baseball (Jack).

2) 3 children, not triplets. The hardest part of the summer was that at ages 7.5, 5, and 2, it's a rare activity that entertains everyone. I could be knocking it out of the park with 2 children but the third would be whining and complaining because they weren't getting 1:1 attention or they were getting into trouble because the activity was too above them. The activities where they were all happy were generally: eating, playing Kick the Can, or watching the very small sliver of entertainment options that appeal to all of their ages: namely the Berenstain Bears and Paw Patrol. There were some beautiful exceptions to this challenge and they were the nirvana of the trip!

We ate well and often

Eating popsicles was a crowd pleaser

Watching a movie, surrounded by their mess :)

3) Character Flaws 101. The J-C sibling rivalry did not found a cure in the SC air and I got a front row seat to all character deficits existing in my children, often in the worse-case scenario of "with an audience" and only me to respond. In the past few months, I've been pulling a lot of wisdom from Paul David Tripp's Parenting 101 book: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family and I'm choosing to see the bad behavior as a gift to open my eyes to exactly what my kids need to work on. I'm batting about 50% with capitalizing on the moments to calmly get down on their level and talk about why such and such behavior is not okay. The other 50% of the time I was thankful for how much open space surrounded us at the lake because I'm pretty confident no one could hear the yelling (or in one particularly low moment, screaming) I was doing :) So on the note of character flaws, and to Jack and Cora's credit, my own have been brought out this summer too.


1) Jacob - he is working so hard for our family right now and is doing it so lovingly. He also missed us a lot and was willing to forego 3.5 weeks without seeing Luke (J, C, and I got to see Jacob on a Greenville weekend midway through the SC trip) which is no small thing because everyone needs Luke snuggles to keep their happiness levels up. Even though he went back to Nola 3+ weeks before us, he had 2 business trips, a ton of brewery projects, and he tilled/laid sod in our backyard and is tackling a playhouse project for the kids. So beyond a few yoga classes, he didn't get to do much relaxing!
2 days at Surfside Beach

Greenville "big kid" trip

2) My family - we hardly spent a dime and were so lovingly taken care of by our extended family. It has been SO NICE!!  As a mother who lives far from family, I soaked up all the loving care and it was truly nourishing for the soul so THANK YOU for the lunches, doting on my kids, free groceries, and acts of kindness!

Fed well by my mama

3) Jack, Cora, and Luke - while I did just call out some bad behaviors, every difficult moment was followed by such special moments. These 3 have adapted impressively to changing surroundings and all 3 show such a zest for life. They have so much energy every day and they really soaked up this experience. We kept a daily journal and I have no doubt that when they open it up years from now the "summer at the lake house" will bring a smile to each of their faces. Thank you for making this summer something we will definitely want to repeat!

More Pictures

At their great-great grandfather's grave

1,000 piece puzzle complete!

Lots of pancakes

My parents live on a cul-de-sac - total heaven for these NOLA kids who don't often get to take their bikes out of the driveway
Furman University - biking and exploring
Furman Soccer Field

Furman Library - ahh I always loved this place!

All that biking!

Big kid weekend - we can eat out at restaurants and it's not stressful!

The summer of all things baseball for Jack

Matching cousins wearing what were once Billy & Luke's clothes, now Luke & Owen's - so convenient!

Best bud cousins

Happy naked babies

Hands Down

Luke rocks the same "What's a sunburn" shirt for the third summer in a row :) 

Princess Cora - being 5 is awesome!

Jack and Baby Owen love each other :)

Summer of golden curls :)

It was worth the drive!