Feel good time

… Oh, to have just one more day of vacation

I’m agonizing here. Although, I suppose it could be worse.

We took what we’ll dub as our official 2009 summer vacation over the weekend …

To one of my all-time favorite camping spots -- Kohler-Andre State Park

More accurately, my summer vacation actually began Wednesday afternoon, and I spent Thursday around the house, relaxing and working in our yard. I say working, but that’s leisure to me …

The camping actually began Friday … After our usual whirlwind of packing (see Phoebe getting into it above), we didn’t hit the Interstate until about 2:30 in the afternoon. It was two hours behind the schedule I’d laid out and I got flustered because of it. Kates and I were bickering. Plus, we were destined to face construction the entire length of the drive …

It didn’t take long for a smile to break over my face, though. We got the “Ultimate Party” playlist going on the iPod, and I knew we were about to have a fantastic weekend.

We arrived at the campground a little after 4, and found Joel waiting with Sophia … He’d called us a couple nights earlier to let us know he was planning to make the drive from Ohio to spend the weekend with us and surprise Dad for his birthday …

I had told Joel that words wouldn’t express how surprised, and how happy our parents would be to see him and Sophia … I was proven right when Mom and Dad pulled up with their camper a little after 7. They stopped in their tracks, mouths agape, and when they finally stepped out of their car, their eyes were hardly dry.

While Mom and Dad set up their camp, Joel, Kates and I grilled chicken burgers over the fire and had our supper … Then we joined each other around a smoky campfire for a night under the open air and the stars hovering over the Lake Michigan shoreline. We figured it was the first time we’d camped as a family in about 12, 13 years. … We talked life, memories, politics and the stresses of work and a poor economy. The conversation was meaningful and refreshing.

Saturday began earlier than Kates and I would have liked -- with Phoebe standing and jumping in her crib at the crack of dawn. About 5:50 a.m. to be exact … Then she proceeded, I’m sure, to wake up the rest of the camping loop by screaming while Kates prepared her morning bottle of milk.

For breakfast, Mom cooked arguably the best French toast I’ve ever tasted … Afterward, Kates, Joel, the girls and I huddled under our dining tent to wait out a good dose of rain and thunder … Later, once the skies cleared, we took a walk around the grounds and spent the remainder of the morning gathered around another campfire -- this time it was built more for warmth than for a gathering place; it was an unseasonably cool weekend -- and watched the girls bounce around our camping space, picking up dirt and clapping cups.

Unlike our last trip, Kates and didn’t get to do the kind of biking or hiking we would have liked – having an active toddler makes that a little more difficult. But we did manage to spend a sunny afternoon on the beach … Joel and I played a great game of catch with the ol’ tennis ball and Velcro paddles. And we tried building a sandcastle together, the designer/architect in him insisted on molding an Indy car, while the creative/fantasy sense in me was interested in the grandest castle I could come up with. So one half looked like the front part of an Indy car, and the other half looked like a standard castle with towers and staircases and moats.

We also got to experience the wonder and amusement of taking Phoebe into the Lake Michigan water … The first time I tried leading her into the water, she resisted, but I tried to assure her she would like it. Then she got that first rush of waves against her little legs and a little laughter came out. After a few minutes I led her back to the dry sand and returned to my sandcastle-building. But every 15 minutes or so, Phoebe was tugging on my shirt to take her back to the water again and again.

Back in camp for the late afternoon, we battled each other in a game of Ladder Ball … And Dad’s classic grilled cheeseburgers – a mainstay on our camping menus – were served for supper.

The night’s campfire was a continuation of Friday night’s … and a beautiful ending to our weekend. And on Sunday morning we said our good-byes.

If only every weekend was such an escape.

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