In early August, when the end of summer was quickening and the days until school started became countable, I asked Annalee a question.
"When you think back on our summer, what were the highlights for you? What did you enjoy the most?"
We were driving in the car at the time, and she seemed to pretend to not be able to speak. I pressed on and asked her to give me some of her thoughts. I suggested it might be a question she's asked when she starts school - 'what did you do this summer?' She wasn't answering but was making some silly noises.
In looking in the rear view mirror, I realized that she was pointing to her magic writing board. And, then it became clear to me. She had written on the board: YOU! Mommy.
Thankfully, we were on a side street, which made it easy to pull over. I couldn't drive 'cause my eyes were flooded with tears. My heart was overwhelmed with joy to know that the time we spent together was the most important part of her summer. I found this especially meaningful given that this has been our first summer when I didn't work. It's also the last summer when Annalee is an only child. So, she really had my full attention everyday.
With the arrival of autumn last week, I thought it a good time to reflect on our summer and share some of our highlights - an idea borrowed from a page of my friend's blog.
Swimming - This summer, Annalee took extended swimming lessons at the YMCA. When possible, she had one-hour lessons, which seemed to really improve her skills. She is now swimming freestyle and putting her head in the water and breathing while she swims! And, many times while she was in her lesson, I was able to swim laps in the same lane or nearby, which was a lot of fun (although sometimes distracting for her). We also enjoyed having a membership to a local community pool. Although we calculated that we didn't get our money's worth from a season pass ('cause the weather just wasn't that great for swimming outdoors this summer), we still had a lot of fun when we did go. And, it was convenient to just say 'let's go swimming for an hour' because we DID have the passes.
Here's Annalee and her friend Alaina at the pool.
And, here's Annalee coming down the tornado slide.
Piano lessons - With the start of summer came the start of piano lessons with Dianne, our friend from Annalee's (and soon Zelda's) China travel group. Annalee and Dianne's daughter, Maia, are good friends. Not only did we have piano lessons each Monday, but then Dianne and I took turns watching the girls for the afternoon. The girls got to play together each week, and each of the moms got one afternoon a week to get our own things done. One day we went to the Morton Arboretum. Several times, we just hung out in the sprinkler in the backyard.
Brookfield Zoo - We went to Brookfield Zoo twice this summer. Considering we have a membership and can go whenever we want, I don't think we went enough. It certainly doesn't compare to previous summers when we went a whole lot more. That said, we did have a TON of fun (yes, pun intended) seeing the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit, since Annalee is a total dinosaur junkie. She had the camera during the most of the dinosaur visit. This is one of the funnier pictures, in my opinion:
Can you tell which dinosaur it is? If not, here's the one I took of the face - and the other face that had trouble looking at the camera that day!
Don't you love the flower clip in the hair and the little purse?
That first visit to see the dinosaurs was on my birthday. You may recall that I share my birthday with a friend of mine. So, we went to the zoo with her and her kids and with another friend of ours and her son. It turned out that the moms all showed up with the same outfits, so we had to take a picture of that.
Our second visit was with Ron. Of course, Annalee insisted we see the dinosaurs again. Unfortunately, those pictures seem to have been wiped off the camera before we uploaded them to the computer. Big bummer.
As for MY birthday, somehow we only ended up with a picture of Ron, Annalee and little Charlotte:
Dinosaur Camp - One spring Sunday at church, our friend's mom was sitting behind us and saw Annalee drawing dinosaurs. It was then that Jane came to know what a dinosaur freak Annalee was (is). So, she asked if it would be alright if she and her husband took Annalee, along with their grandson (a friend of Annalee's) to dinosaur camp at the Field Museum in June. Do you think there was any way we were going to say no? So, Annalee spent two half-days at the museum - and around the museum campus, too. I'm sure she had a lot to tell the teacher about dinosaurs. We don't have any pictures from camp, but we did get to see Annalee on the local 5 o'clock news on ABC-7, when they did a promo piece about the camp. That was cool!
Vacation - This summer's vacation was a week in southwest Michigan. The week started July 3 in New Buffalo for the fireworks (a bit lame - maybe it was the economy) and then July 4th at the above friend's parents house for their annual holiday party. It was our first time attending. We really enjoyed all the traditions that have been carried on for nearly 20 years. Sunday, July 5 was the first of six days spent in a spectacular house in Lakeside, Mich. overlooking Lake Michigan. We were with two other families that included three other children all within one year of Annalee's age.
The week included lots of sand, swimming, some fishing, a night of s'mores, one beautiful sunset, go-kart racing and last, but not least, Dinosaur Day at the Beach.
Dinosaur Day at the Beach began with a dinosaur breakfast - miniature dinosaurs surrounded each breakfast plate. The kids painted small wood dinosaurs. Then there was the dinosaur dig on the beach - each child had a 100 sq. ft. area to sift through to find approximately 7 dinosaurs (the dads lost count of how many were buried - but we think only one was left to fossilize in the sand). We also had those capsules that you put in water and watch the dinosaur sponges grow. We commemorated the day with individually hand-painted T-shirts, which we have all donned very proudly in the days that followed vacation.
Kane County Cougars Game - The Saturday evening following vacation, we went to a Kane County Cougars minor league baseball game. We were joined by two families from Annalee's China travel group. The girls were way too into the baseball players. They're only in elementary school, and I'm scared already. Sitting on the third baseline always makes us feel like the fireworks are right on top of us.
Picking and Canning - When I became a happy hausfrau, I took up canning. Thank you, Becky! Have I told you how exciting it is for me to look at a jar of jam or pickles that I have made myself? Well, it is. And, while I'm doing the canning, I'm often reminded of my grandma Fran and the smell of dill in her kitchen or of when my mom canned in second kitchen we had in our basement when I was growing up.
Here's the 'All My Sisters' girls and Annalee during a canning session.
To get the jam canning done, we went out berry and cherry picking a few times this year. Cherry picking in Michigan was a lot of fun, especially watching the cherry pit pitter do its thing. What a time saver! And, at Garden Patch Farms just south of us in Homer Glen, Annalee enjoyed feeding lots of chickens that they have in a coop to entertain the kids.
Local Events - I don't think it would be summer without visiting some local town festivals. We did the Taste of Westmont with Gerri, Mike and the kids, along with some friends. And, we also went to a couple cruisin' nights in Westmont and Downers Grove. Saw some really cool cars!
Fishing - Annalee west fishing with Ron several times this summer. Not only did she go on vacation, but the two of them went with some other dads and kids to fish locally, too. I'm pretty sure that everyone caught something!
Safety Village - When I was laid off, we realized that Annalee would be able to attend Safety Village of Darien with Alaina. That was the best $90-program we have ever attended. It is worth at least twice that in value for what both Annalee and I learned. Annalee attended three hours a day for a week. They also offered a couple (free) two-hour sessions for parents to hear from our local police and fire officials. I learned a lot, especially about fire safety in the home - where to place your fire alarms, how to do a fire drill and what it would be like if the house caught on fire and how to prepare. At the end of the two weeks, they had a little graduation ceremony for the kids.
If you live in the area and have the opportunity to send your children to Safety Village of Darien, do it. You won't be sorry. In fact, you'll wonder why they don't charge more.
Night at the Museum - No, we didn't spend a night at a museum. But, we did see both Night at the Museum movies. The first was during movie night at church. More fun than the movie was making sundaes in the dark after the power went out. The second time, we went with friends to the cheapo theater one afternoon for a matinee. Isn't there something fun about seeing matinees? Just that word brings me back to an earlier time...
Dragon Boat Races - We went to Chinatown for the Dragon Boat Races and festival. Two families joined us - they joined our family when we traveled to China with them for Annalee's adoption. We watched the races, played at Ping Tom Park and had a tasty lunch at Emperor's Palace on Wentworth.
Don't you just love Annalee's umbrella? She brought this from home to shield her from the sun...and probably just to be cute. Which she was. She fit right in with all the local Chinese folks.
Church Events - In addition to movie night at church, we also took part in Family Farm Fest, a benefit for Heifer International. During our day of games, storytelling, crafts and food, our church raised $20,000 for Heifer, or the equivalent of four arks. How cool is that!
Of course, we also renewed our vows at church for our 10-year anniversary.
Wisconsin State Fair- In early August, Annalee and I attended the Wisconsin State Fair with my dad and step-mom. The weather was spectacular - not too hot, not too cold. Just right.
We saw tractors big and small, hogs and piglets, horses, goats and sheep. That reminds me...Annalee got a brief lesson in the male anatomy when we were in the sheep building. You'd have to have been blind to miss the genitalia hanging there. So, of course, Annalee had to ask about it. I did the best I could to explain it. Briefly. Then, I told her to ask daddy about it. How's that for passing the buck? (Funny me, another pun!)
We also saw award-winning jams and jellies (gave me something to aspire to someday), rode the sky tram from one end of the park to another, and watched pig and duck races. Annalee rode a little pink tractor, a pony and a giant slide. We also saw the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Love those monkey toes!
You weren't expecting to find a picture of a male sheep here, were you? You can stop looking. I didn't get one.
Air & Water Show - Early on Sunday, Aug. 16, we loaded into the car and drove to Lincoln Park to meet our friends for a picnic and enjoy the Chicago Air & Water Show. We ended up getting rained out mid-afternoon, but not before I got this picture of all the girls.
Train Trip to Chicago - For the second year, Annalee and I rode the train to Chicago for a day-trip. This year, we went to the Field Museum to see the dinosaurs. The weather was so beautiful that when we left the museum we walked down to Buckingham Fountain; then we took the train home.
Referral for Zelda - I'd be remiss if I didn't count getting our referral for Zelda among our highlights. And, at the time of this writing, I'm pretty confident we'll be home with her before Thanksgiving!
Other Stuff - Some other fun stuff we did included going to and having cookouts with friends, both new and old. We made a few trips to the Plush Horse Ice Cream Parlor - always a treat. We usually pair it with a visit to the model plane field. We saw some amazing planes and daring flying this summer. We played miniature golf a couple times. We cooked hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire pit. And, we made some yummy s'mores. We visited the arboretum several times (with and without our friends).
Annalee and I spent a rainy day at the DuPage Children's Museum. We took a break for lunch and met friends in downtown Naperville for lunch. Before returning to the museum for more playing, we went to the spice store. While there, the misty rain turned into a torrential downpour. Guess where the umbrella was? Yep, in the car. So, we finally made a run for it. We were soaked by the time we got back to the car. Luckily it was warm out. Annalee said it was the most fun ever.
Wowza. As I look back through my calendar and all our pictures, I am overwhelmed with our many blessings and good fortune. I had the pleasure and pure joy to spend every day with Annalee. We were able to be together and make so many special memories. The time she and I spent together and the time we spent as a family is precious, as is the time we spent with our extended family and many wonderful friends. And, for that, I say we had an outstanding summer.
11 hours ago