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Month: June 2010 (page 1 of 3)

holiday on the keweenaw

Well, we can’t believe our first week of vacation is over already. We were all a bit sad yesterday to leave Whitecaps Cottage and our views of Lake Superior, but we had a good week there–chillaxin’ (a word Mike adopted recently) and exploring the area. I simply love the water, and being so close to the vastness of Lake Superior was incredible. It was nice hearing the waves crashing against the rocky shore as we slept. And it was so much fun playing on the rocky shoreline. Aidan learned how to skip rocks, which he was thrilled about! We ventured into the water walking on rock plates that jutted out into the lake (the water was cold, but invigorating). We also left our trace (minimally) with rock “art” on the shoreline for those who come next to enjoy.

agate beach and beyond

Some of our adventures away from the cottage were exploring various trails and beaches. Agate Beach, just outside of Toivola, was a beautiful beach that we had almost completely to ourselves until a couple of horses (with their owners) decided to take a swim! We walked along the beach and waded in the water and collected a bag full of colorful rocks. Mike kept called me “Lucy” since I was finding just as many rocks to bring home as Aidan was! (a reference to Lucille Ball’s The Long, Long Trailer). I’m not sure if we found any agates, but we sure found some great additions for Aidan’s rock collection.

Another day, we just took it easy (chillaxin’). We drove into the college town of Houghton, found a stone labyrinth that we walked in the rain, and lunched on shrimp po’ boys and eggplant parmesan sandwiches and fresh brewed root beer at a pretty tasty brewery called The Library. It was so yummy that we went back there another day–at which time I had their very delicious veggie quesadillas and Aidan had awesome homemade chocolate chocolate chip ice cream. He graciously shared a bit at first but got a little reluctant when my spoon couldn’t stay away from the dish!. After some reading and relaxing back at the cottage, we decided to go to the grocery store at which time during our drive Mike spotted a large bird flying in the sky. We pulled over at the Nara Nature Park and hiked in a bit to see if we could spot what type of bird it was, and low and behold, we spotted a bald headed eagle sitting so proudly on a branch of a large birch. Of course we forgot the cameras (since our plan was a grocery store), but boy was that a spectacular to see an eagle–this was a first for all us.

the porkies

One of my favorite jaunts so far was going to the “Porkies.” The Porcupine Mountain State Park in Ontonagon was simply beautiful. The park consists of 60,000 acres of wilderness areas with one road that runs through the park and numerous trails. We started at the Visitor’s Center where, of course, Aidan had to deliberate over which stuffed animal to get as a souvenir. After what seemed like hours, he finally selected a cute black bear (whom he named Porky after the park). We then headed out to explore the main attractions. The first place we went was the Summit Peak observation tower where we climbed a 40-foot tower to reach the highest point in the mountains–what a view! After trekking back down the mountain, we drove over to the Presque Isle area of the park where we hiked the trails and viewed the spectacular waterfalls. We ended our trip there by going to a large island by means of a suspended footbridge that went over the raging rapids of the Presque Isle River. Here on the island, we walked under a grove of pines to an opening of a rocky ledge that led right up near the rapids and the smaller waterfalls–definitely a cool area! Even though we explored for hours, we barely scratched the surface of this magnificent place. Night time was upon us, though, so we had to leave; this is definitely a place I want to come back to and see more.

eagle and copper harbors

Another day, we took a driving tour of the Keweenaw Peninsula up to Copper Harbor. It was a long drive (with way too much of Harry Potter audio book for Mike and me), but the views were wonderful. On the way, we stopped at an old blacksmith shop and a road-side waterfall. We also drove along the Brockway Mountain trail through the trees, stopping to see some panoramic views of the area. We spent time at the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and museums. Here we had a local tour guide (an older gentleman by the name of Paul) who talked to us about the lighthouse and the keepers. He told us about a shipwreck (The City of Bangor) of the winter of 1926. The ship was carrying a full cargo of automobiles. Many of the local high school boys (including our tour guide’s father-in-law) were paid to help salvage the cars. This stop offered us a nice little overview of the history of the peninsula. From here, we jumped back in the car to continue our journey to Copper Harbor. We finally made it and stopped for lunch at Mariner North where they offered good paninis but nickel-and-dimed us on the fries. After filling our tummies, we decided to take the road to the end, and boy did we! The paved road ended near the tip of the peninsula, and we decided to take our Jeep off the beaten track over what started as a gravel road but quickly turned to dips, boulders, and large crevices. At one point, I thought for sure we were on some back-country hiking trail (and not a road at all)! But we finally made our way out–us and our Jeep still intact; although, I swear there is now a new squeaking noise coming from the Jeep’s suspension.

quincy copper mines

Our last full day in the area was a bit rainy, so we decided to tour a copper mine. Just north of Hancock is the Quincy Mine. This mining tour was an interesting one that included a surface level tour through many of the old buildings and a tram car ride down to the mine entrance where a tractor wagon brought us underground for a guided tour of an area where the copper was excavated. While there are many copper mines on the Keweenaw Peninsula, the Quincy Mine has the world’s largest steam-powered hoist engine. I have to say the guides that we had for this two-hour tour were extremely informative. After the “official” tour, the three of us walked the grounds taking a look at the old equipment on display and exploring the ruins of old buildings. It was a fun way to spend a rainy day.

So, this was our first week. :-) We have since arrived at our latest cabin in the woods just south of Munising, MI. Today we’ve been mostly chilaxin’, catching up with work and our blog/photos, but we did take a couple-mile hike through the Hiawatha National Forest (which is our backyard for the next week). Man, I’m loving this trip (but don’t tell my hubby who’s itching to just go off and buy up some land out here)! :-)

Oh, by the way, if anyone we know wants to be spontaneous and come up and stay with us here in Munising for a couple of days, we’re here ’til Saturday and there’s extra rooms (just drop us an email)! Until next time . . .

headin’ north to michigan’s up – day 1

We kicked off our summer adventure yesterday with an eight hour drive north to Michigan’s UP with our first destination being Chassell, MI at the base of Keweenaw Peninsula. We arrived around 5:30 and just chilled and explored the little cottage where we’ll be staying for the next week. It’s really quite nice–simple, small, but clean and cozy. I could [singlepic=613,200,200]Our Journey Northget used to it. The backyard borders the shoreline of Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Bay. It comes complete with its own beautiful rocky shoreline and a couple of Adirondack chairs pointed toward the sea (yes, it feels like a sea, truly). Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world (by surface area, if you want to be technical). It is quite amazing. We are on a bay, so its full magnitude is somewhat hidden from our current vantage point, but we are no less impressed.

Aidan was thrilled to be so close to the lake. We weren’t in the house five minutes and he was galloping off to the shoreline to collect rocks, dip his toes in the rather icy water and explore to his heart’s content. You hear so often about kids being bored with their everyday lives and desiring the likes of Disney World or some other amusement to keep them from falling into a coma. But Aidan finds such absolute joy and wonder (and for hours) just by picking up rocks, smelling wild flowers, and climbing up and down a rocky hillside. He says this is the best vacation ever (but he always says that).

Anyway, today we headed north up US41 to Houghton for yummy lunch of seafood before visiting Waterfront Park–home of the amazing “Chutes and Ladders” playground. This playground was something else–boasting a series of, well, chutes and ladders, but one such chute was the longest most intense slide I’ve ever seen at a playground. It took like 15 seconds to ride its entire length–yelling and laughing the whole way down. Aidan, thought this was the greatest thing ever. One time it sounded like he was literally tumbling head-over-heels through the entire tube; he was screaming the whole way. Once the slide spit him out at the bottom into the sand, he jumped up and screamed, “I wanna do it again!” And off he went. The park also had a small beach on Portage Lake where we waded and collected a few pretty stones for the collection. (We only took a few small ones ;-)

After a full day at the park, we checked out the local Econofoods grocery and picked up some food for the cottage, where we built a fire in the backyard and roasted soy hot dogs. Aidan polished off two full dogs plus his veggies–which is a quite a bit for him. It was a great first day. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. Check out a few of our photos so far below.

I’ll be doing my best to chronicle our adventures in the evenings throughout our trip, so stay tuned for more updates. Tomorrow, I think we’ll be heading up the Keweenaw Peninsula to Copper Harbor.

life is not a unit study

Recently I was listening to another great program by Sarah Parent from her show Humans Being–a Radical Unschooling and Gentle Parenting Podcast. The topic of this particular show was something called “strewing.” Strewing, as Sarah explains, is defined in different ways by different people, but most simply it is the leaving about of “stimulating” materials to [singlepic=596,225,225] Goofin’ Offencourage your children to further pursue interests of their own–or sometimes outside (i.e. your) interests. (I do not agree with the latter approach.) Please visit Sarah’s blog and listen to her entire podcast on this fascinating subject for more information: HB#21: Do You Strew?. What I really want to share here, though, is one thing that Sarah offered in her show that stuck with me. Actually, it is a letter she read that was written from a mother in Washington state and published in John Holt’s book Teach Your Own. (So the source is three times removed here, but that says something about the sticking power of this message.)

This mother decided to take her children out of traditional school for a one-year hiatus to homeschool them. And so she reflects on the experience of what it means to live life authentically with our children, to share its joys, to connect honestly with someone you love, and to learn with and without our children, for ourselves, all the time. I’ve embedded below an excerpt of Sarah Parent reading this piece below. She reads it well. It is followed by the text itself.

Listen to the audio…
[audio:strewing_excerpt.mp3]

I have never know how to “stimulate” the children. I know that as a parent, I should be raising my children in a “stimulating” environment so that they will not be dulled or bored. But what is more stimulating–a room full of toys and tools and gadgets, bright colors and shiny enameled fixtures or a sparsely furnished, hand-hewn cabin deep in the woods with a few toys, carefully chosen or crafted, rich with meaning, time, and care and intimate with the elements of the earth. The only world I can show them with any integrity is my world.

Perhaps that is why field trips were such a disappointment for us. We started off in the fall, doing “something special,” i.e. an educational field trip once a week. After about a month, we all forgot about taking these trips. They were fun–certainly interesting–but I think we were all sickened by the phoniness. Everyone knew the only reason we all trooped into the city to the aquarium was because mom thought it would be a “good experience.” Of much more continuing interest and of probably greater educational significance in the truest sense were the weekly trips into town to do the errands, to the bank–where we all have accounts and are free to deposit and withdraw as we please–, the post office, grocery store, laundry mat, recycling center, drug store, and the comic book racks, and the evenings at the library and the swimming pool. Those things are real–things I would even do if no one joined me that just happen to be important activities for all of us.

When I am trying to stimulate their interest in something, the very artificiality of the endeavor–and rudeness really,I have no business even trying–builds a barrier between us, but when I am sharing something I really love with them because I also really love them, all barriers are down and we are communicating intimately. And when they also love what I love–a song, a poem, the salmon returning to the creek to spawn–the joy is exquisite. We share a truth, but our differences are also a truth. Common thread and fiber we share, but not the whole piece. And so I do my work each day–work which is full of meaning to me–and offer to teach it to them–cooking, sewing, splitting wood, hauling water, keeping house, reading, writing, singing, sailing on the lake, digging in the garden, and sometimes they’re interested–sometimes not. But if I were to try to stimulate them, sugarcoating various tasks, making games out of various skills, preaching, teaching me to them, they would not have the time–great, great, empty spaces of time in which to search deep within themselves for what is most true about them, and neither, then, would I.

These words struck me in an important way. I am thinking more now about simply connecting with my son as a person–sharing with him what I love because I love him, and asking him to share what he loves with me because I am truly interested. I have no desire to impose anything on to him or to feign interest in something simply because I believe there is some “teachable moment” there or some necessary lesson he must have before continuing to live his life. He is not a project for me to accomplish. I’m not focused on how he’s going to “turn out” because he is right now. Right now. Right here in this place. We are learning and living together–honestly–and I couldn’t be happier.

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