I sure do, both because it was fun and because it seems like it happened a few weeks ago instead of a year ago. But if you think I am getting ready to tell you how I am getting ready to do it all again you’d be wrong.
We are going to have some fun this summer, but not quite as often. And this summer the kids are going to help me more with what I find fun, which is getting the house in shape.
So there won’t be enough going on to justify a weekly blog post, but I’ll pop in from time to time to share this summer’s adventures, starting today.
Summer break started with a bang, with our traditional last-day-of-school ice cream cones:
Which was followed by super-Catholic way to start vacation, venerating the heart of Saint Jean Vianney:
On Sunday after Mass we had a graduation party to attend which happened to be near the zoo so we dropped the kids there for their first solo trip! We had a family cookout for Memorial Day, complemented by strawberries Emily grew and Lorelei (mostly) harvested:
The next day we had a fun cousin adventure, including introducing Leo and Ella to the lake:
And being introduced ourselves to Hoskins Drug Store, which has a lunch counter that hasn’t changed since the 1930s:
Emily was responsible for summer fun over the next few days, since John and I were in Washington, DC for my college reunion (about which more later, most likely). She managed another trip to the zoo, daily visits to the dog park, and the new Godzilla movie. Right after we returned she and Lorelei left for a week in Nashville and things have been pretty boring around here without them. John and I are pretending William is an only child. We took him to the Korean restaurant one night and this evening we are going back to the Godzilla movie!
And under the category of getting the house organized, we have spent an hour cleaning William’s room (more must be done), cleaned and organized one half of the front porch (the dirtier half!), installed two garden hoses and mounts for them, and accomplished a couple of long-overdue projects in the basement.
And I’ve got more planned on both the fun and the organization fronts. If you find any of this remotely interesting, watch this space for semi-regular updates.
School started yesterday. Our summer is over even though there is a month and a half left in the season!
There wasn’t a whole lot of time for fun in our last week. It was actually a pretty typical week from one of our other summers–I worked every day and the kids stared at screens. But that was the ONLY week that was true this summer so I’m calling it a win.
There was a lot to do, as there always is when school is about to start, like haircuts:
And although I bought supplies online, we still spent most of Saturday shopping because Lorelei needed new clothes.
I promised everyone a trip to the lake in the afternoon, though, and I delivered on that promise.
On Monday, we had our last big adventure. I have no pictures to commemorate it, but we wore ourselves out spending maybe three hours at an enormous antique mall. The kids thoroughly enjoyed it and each got to bring home a few items.
On Tuesday, we went for ice cream just once more as a last day of vacation treat.
And then on Wednesday school began. No way would William let me photograph him on such an occasion. You can see how thrilled Lorelei is to have to go back to regular school.
Thanks for following along on our summer adventures. Knowing I was going to be blogging about them helped motivate me to continue, and continuing gave me something regular to write about, so it was a great idea all around and I will plan to repeat it next year.
Last week I fell far short of my promised one-fun-thing-per-day promise. I had a good excuse, though–I went to Nashville from Wednesday until Saturday to visit my sister. Emily kindly provided some entertainment for her siblings in my stead, taking them blueberry picking. And John took them to a “magnificent” (according to William) Asian restaurant to dine while I was gone.
But we did have one big adventure on Tuesday, one that did not turn out at all as I had planned!
We lived in South Knoxville when the big kids were little, and every Wednesday morning for years I used to take them to breakfast at Shoney’s. Shoney’s was a big favorite for our family back then because we didn’t have a lot of money, we had a lot of mouths to feed, and kids ate free at the buffet!
So just about every summer since then we make a point to head south to that same Shoney’s to recreate some of that long ago summer fun. Usually there’s a waitress or two there who still remembers us from back in the day (not this time, sadly).
That’s what the plan was on Tuesday, to be followed by a quick trip to the Fort Dickerson Overlook, perhaps a short walk on a trail, and visits to Scottish Pike Park and the new Suttree Landing Park that William and Lorelei have never seen.
Most of that will have to wait until another day, as you will see!
After a big breakfast, we drove up to Fort Dickerson Park and went to admire the view from the overlook. I will never forget the first time I saw this view, about 25 years ago. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing–it was like I was in some enchanted faraway land instead of about a mile from downtown Knoxville.
Now, I’ve been to Fort Dickerson many times, but this time I saw something new–a trail just to the left of the overlook.
And that’s when I had a bright idea. Why don’t we explore it, I said. Let’s just see where it goes, I said. We can always turn around and come back.
So we braved the kudzu and started to walk.
And we walked. And we walked. And we sort of committed. Eventually it was clear that we were walking right around the lake. I figured we’d end up at the bottom (I’ve taken a trail that goes there from a different parking lot) and then surely there would be a way back on the other side.
Sure enough, after a fairly easy walk we ended up exactly where I thought, and we started hunting for that other trail. At first things seemed to go fairly well, and we made our way along the opposite side of the lake, heading in exactly the direction we were supposed to.
Until, that is, we ended up at a very dead end, standing right on the bank of the lake with a sheer cliff several hundred feet tall in front of us.
So we doubled back to where we had taken what was clearly the wrong fork and kept walking, only to eventually realize the trail we were on did nothing but circle us back–after a long time, I might add–to an area close to where it began.
By now we had come to realize that there WAS no trail on the other side. We had two choices for how to get back to the car–take the trail we’d come down to begin with, or leave the park and go by road.
Did I mention that it was about a million degrees by now? (Well, at least 90 anyway.) And we didn’t bring water. We were tired, exhausted, and dehydrated as we made our way to the parking lot and thence to Chapman Highway, which if you are not local I need to explain is NOT the kind of road you really want to walk on.
Fortunately, there is a sidewalk–on the wrong side, naturally–and we were able to find a safe way to cross the highway. We trudged doggedly up the hill and then crossed back over to the park entrance and finally made it to the car. Y’all, we had walked FOUR MILES.
We drove straight to Weigel’s and bought Icees and much water, which I actually poured right on my head. I apologized A LOT for my poor leadership skills. But it was an adventure! Read more of our summer adventures below! Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead The Summer Fun Continues . . . More Summer Fun Summer Fun Update Summer Fun: Vacation That 70s Summer In Which I Grow Lazy Exploring History
Y’all, it is HOT. And our access to a swimming pool is gone. It is hard to want to leave the air conditioning to have summer adventures, but we managed three days of fun this week.
I couldn’t get it together till Wednesday, when we had to leave the house for an appointment anyway. Immediately thereafter, we drove downtown to visit Blount Mansion.
I vividly remember my own first encounter with this bit of Tennessee history as part of a seventh grade field trip–I was unimpressed and thought it wasn’t much of a mansion at all! This time I was absolutely enthralled with such details as panes of glass installed in 1792–the first glass windows in town–and still there to be looked through over 200 years later, and the desk on which the Tennessee Constitution was signed, and William Blount’s very own fancy shoe buckles still in their original box.
Our guide did a great job of bringing history to life for us. We spent close to two hours in the museum, the house, and the gardens, and Lorelei was NOT bored which she had come expecting to be.
Thursday we went out for ice cream for the third time this summer. (Did I mention it was hot?) Lorelei and I enjoyed it but William did not like how fast the ice cream melted in the heat (we were very messy by the end!).
Friday was really exciting. Last week William had a follow-up appointment with his oral surgeon in Oak Ridge. There was a traffic jam along our usual route back over the Clinch River to Knoxville, and Siri routed us a way I had never seen before. Along this lovely country road we spied signs for an historic cabin and cemetery, and we passed right by a park. On Friday, I told the kids we were having an adventure and we drove back to explore these places.
We discovered that Bull Run Park has a swimming area and made plans to go back and enjoy it!
Next we headed to the David Hall Cabin, and were conducted on an informative tour of this two-hundred-year old cabin and a couple more by the one of the owners, whose wife’s father was raised in it. The Baumgartners live behind the cabins on four of the original 50 acres. We thanked Mr. Baumgartner for all he and his family continue to do to preserve this history for us to enjoy and learn from!
I’ll admit it–it is harder to have fun all the time than you might think. Honestly, I really, really like sitting at my desk having uninterrupted time to get work done. Leaving the house is stressful, and sandwiching fun in between not only work but also family business like medical appointments (two this week) is not easy.
So this week I outsourced some of the fun to John, and therefore this post will be short on pictures even though the week was not short on fun!
On Monday evening, John took the kids to see The Incredibles 2. John and the kids all love movies, me not so much, so that’s been “his thing” since the big kids were little.
Tuesday I took the kids and Emily out to breakfast at Maple Street Biscuit Company, a newish place that I had been passing daily while picking up William at school and had been dying to try. If there’s one where you are, you should go. Only William was not a fan, because the waffles had infinitesimally tiny bacon pieces in them which he admitted he could not taste but had to remove one by one anyway.
Wednesday was the Fourth of July (I’m sure that is not news to you). We had a cookout at our house with my family. We had planned to go downtown for the symphony and fireworks show afterwards but it was like a million degrees so instead we took William’s suggestion (actually his demand) and watched Independence Day, which is definitely one of my top ten favorite movies of all time. Bonus: everyone in our neighborhood was shooting off fireworks like crazy and we could see them through our windows without leaving the television or the air conditioning.
Thursday was the big event of the week, planned for some time since I had bought a Groupon for it months ago–a visit to Rainforest Adventures, which is an hour’s drive away in Sevierville.
Things I liked: it was mostly inside and air-conditioned, we could see the animals up close and they seemed very happy and well-cared for.
Thing I did NOT like: The overwhelming stench of animal urine that greeted us the moment we walked in the gift shop and literally made me feel ill throughout the two hours we were there.
Here are a few highlights:
Remember when I told y’all that we weren’t doing a 70s summer around here? Well, this week we did our best imitation and as a result this will be a very short post.
The reason: POOL.
So to me, daily access to a swimming pool is an absolute necessity for a 70s summer. Back in the day, our lives revolved around calling the time and temperature number so that we could inform our mother that we had achieved the magic 75 degrees and it was now hot enough to swim.
And swim we did–for two hours every weekday at the neighborhood pool. Playing at the pool with our cousins, getting sunburned, risking further burns from the vinyl seats and metal seatbelts riding home, arriving home wet and cold from the air conditioning and starving with that particular kind of starvation induced by hours at the pool, sating ourselves with white-bread-mayo-Kraft Singles sandwiches–this is the centerpiece of my 70s summers.
When Emily was small we lived in an apartment with a pool and she and I went there every day from April through September, and she learned to swim at an early age as I had. But after that my kids have never had regular access to a nearby pool. They’ve all learned to swim at hotel swimming pools, which are always a must and a highlight of any vacation we take.
But this week Emily was dog-sitting for my sister (who has a neighborhood pool). And the weather has been cooperative. And I was tired from vacation and behind in my work, and felt like being lazy.
So this was the week of the pool, and we will get back to our regularly scheduled programming next week!
Our fun summer continued last week with a little less creativity needed on my part, since we were on our actual vacation!
We traveled to Beech Mountain, North Carolina, to stay at a timeshare provided by my oldest friend and her family. We had a wonderful time and I took so many beautiful pictures that I would love to devote a longer post to it, but this is not that post! Instead, in keeping with what I’ve been doing, I’ll hit the high points and show a couple of pictures of each day’s special activity.
The kids and I (John was still working) drove up Friday afternoon. It’s three hours from Knoxville, most of it through beautiful scenery. John arrived at midnight and our friends the following day. Saturday was for sleeping in and relaxing.
On Sunday we took a short hike, and were rewarded with close-up deer and a beautiful view at the top.
Later in the afternoon we went down to nearby Banner Elk, looked around a bit, and celebrated Father’s Day with dinner out (and had a close encounter with another wild animal!).
Monday we drove to Boone and did a little browsing in some of the interesting shops there.
After lunch we visited Mystery Hill, a tourist attraction involving a mysterious “vortex” that causes people’s apparent height to change, water to run uphill, and some other fun effects. The complex also contained a Native American museum, a restored 1800s home, and a fairly impressive dinosaur museum.
Tuesday was another quiet day, with only a visit to the local general store, because we were waiting for Emily to arrive. The kids were more than ready to hit the road again on Wednesday, when we visited Linville Caverns and then took a hike to Linville Falls, just on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
After our walk, we stopped at a quaint roadside antique shop/dessert parlor.
Thursday brought the event the kids had been most excited about–Grandfather Mountain. I can’t recommend this attraction enough. The animal habitats allow you to get very close to some animals who were formerly native to the area. We were particularly excited about the cougars.
We enjoyed the museum, some fudge, and a nature hike before driving to the top of the mountain.
And the views up there defy description–especially those from the far side of the Mile-High Swinging Bridge.
Checkout was Friday morning, and Emily and the kids and I went a little out of the way home to visit Creation Kingdom Zoo just over the Virginia state line in Gate City. I had discovered its existence earlier this summer while researching nearby zoos. We spent a happy two hours there feeding some animals and seeing some that were new to our experience. William was especially excited about the spotted hyenas.
We got back to Knoxville in the early evening and have spent most of the time since recovering from the vacation! I plan to take it easy this week–if the kids will allow it.
I’ll be honest–it’s getting harder to come up with something to do every day, and now I am laboring under Lorelei and William’s expectations as well. It’s not that I don’t have plenty of ideas–I have a page-long list, in fact–it’s having ideas that fit in with the weather, our finances, my energy level, and whatever else I have to accomplish on a given day. So here’s what we did this week:
On Monday, we went to the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, which I have written about before. This place is one of Knoxville’s best-kept secrets, a true treasure.
There are lots of new paths since I was last year and although the spring flowers are gone, there were wild flowers, trees (with identifying markers, too, so you can learn something while you walk), and, most exciting to me because I’ve never seen one, a small wheat field!
Tuesday I had to scrap my original plans because something came up, so I took the kids to Wild Love Bakehouse for a treat. I kid you not, this place in nationally renowned and if you come to Knoxville you will want to pay it a visit.
After our treat, which we shared with friendly sparrows on the porch, we walked down the steps to investigate one of my favorite places–Mid Mod Collective. I cannot afford one stick of the restored vintage furniture they sell here but boy do I wish I could. They also have retro knickknacks and even vintage clothing. Mostly it’s just fun to browse and feel like you’ve gone back in time.
Mid Mod Collective shares space with The Book Eddy, a vintage book store that’s occupied various spaces in Knoxville over the past 20 years or so. We had a great time browsing there. My big finds were a board game from my high school years and a 1945 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette.
These places are all located in the Old North Knoxville historical district so our last activity was to spend a little time driving around the nearby neighborhoods and talking architecture (Victorian and Craftsman, for the most part). Lorelei is obsessed with House Hunters recently and had asked me about Mid-century Modern, which gave me the idea for these activities in the first place. Who says television can’t be educational?
We visited the Knoxville Museum of Art on Wednesday. The museum is free, there is abundant free parking, and besides their permanent collection and the local artists they showcase there is always a new exhibit to see.
Take special note of that last picture. The Thorne Miniatures are absolutely amazing and the KMA is fortunate to have nine of them. They were housed in the Dulin Gallery, predecessor to the KMA, when I was a child, and I am not the only one to have fond memories of them judging by the reaction when I shared pictures of them on Facebook.
I don’t have any pictures of our Thursday jaunt, which had to be a short one due to a dentist appointment. I took the kids to Starbucks for Frappucinos, using up some gift cards I’d been carrying around! They had never set foot in one before, so this was actually more exciting than I thought it would be. Then we went to the Dollar Tree, which is always a hit.
Friday’s fun consisted of our drive to Beech Mountain, North Carolina, where we are vacationing with friends. I couldn’t take any pictures since I was driving but WOW was it a beautiful trip. I’m sure I’ll have lots to share when I write this up next week.
Catch up on our other summer adventures here, here, and here!
Well, this has been a busy week!
John and I got back from Georgetown Sunday evening, and I was right back into summer adventures with the kids the following day, when we visited McClung Museum. This is a mostly unsung treasure on the University of Tennessee campus. The kids have been there many times but it had been a few years. Notable to me is that they now take time to read the descriptions on the displays. We spent two solid hours here. I loved the temporary exhibit, “Pick Your Poison,” an historical treatment of recreational drug and alcohol use, but as always it was the Egypt exhibit that enthralled Lorelei and William.
Tuesday was hiking day, and because we got a late start we kept it very local, heading to Melton Hill Park about ten minutes away. William thought it was beautiful although he decried the level of garbage we encountered along the woodland trails, this being the type of park where teenagers (and others) congregate to do sketchy things. It was also super hot that day and I really thought I might collapse but I soldiered on.
Wednesday, as I mentioned before, we have a standing appointment in the morning. Plus William had yet another dentist appointment that afternoon. So we again kept it close to where we were already going to be and visited the KARM thrift store in Bearden. I don’t know if it’s weird but my kids love thrift stores. On Wednesday I got to have a little summer fun of my own when my cousin quite unexpectedly invited me to go to a Journey/Def Leppard concert! She was nuts about Journey when we were teenagers and I thought she might have a heart attack!
Thursday was animal day this week (Lorelei and William think every day should b e animal day). We went to the zoo. William and I had an appointment at 9:00 a.m. to talk to the volunteer coordinator about his plans to volunteer there next year. This forced us to get there really early and we discovered this is a delightful time to visit the zoo while escaping the afternoon heat. We also experimented with letting William wander around by himself some in preparation for dropping off at the zoo to spend the day there alone sometime soon.
Today, Friday, I begged off because I was lunching with a friend and attending funeral services later, and also needed time to get work done. And tomorrow we are hitting the Farmer’s Market again, this time with Emily along. I think William would enjoy it but I’m not sure whether we will be able to talk him into it. I’m guessing not.
Tune in next week–I’ve got at least one really exciting thing planned!
Though one cannot always remember exactly why one has been happy, there is no forgetting that one was. (from Good-bye to the Mezzogiorno by W.H. Auden)
I am writing this in the blessed coolness of my hotel room as I recover from a long, hot, and humid but nevertheless fun and illuminating day on the campus of Georgetown University, where we are attending John’s 30 year reunion
I’ve written about other reunions here, here, here, here, and here, and I may yet write up this one in a play-by-play fashion, including all the many pictures I’ve been taking. But this is not that post.
No, today I want to write about thoughts and feelings while they are still fresh in my mind. I feel like I’ve been having a somewhat profound experience and since I’m not–alas–18 any more, I’m afraid I’ll forget it if I don’t write it down.
We are staying in the Key Bridge Marriott, which is relevant because 30 years ago I was a waitress in the restaurant here. And now I’m staying in a room on the 7th floor, so I’ve both literally and figuratively moved up! And of course I’ve told every single person I’ve interacted with in the hotel about my association with it–partly to explain why I am openly staring strangely at things (because a lot has changed in 20 years, y’all!).
Anyway, what I noticed last night as we were eating our late dinner in the hotel bar was that I was giddily happy. Couldn’t-stop-smiling-happy. And I remember that I USED TO BE LIKE THAT ALL THE TIME.
I’m not like that all the time any more. In fact, I am hardly ever like that. If I’m tipsy, maybe, or I’m excited about flowers blooming at the beginning of spring. But being super cheerful used to be an intrinsic part of who I was to the point that I remember writing an essay about it. I’m always telling my kids (and other people lucky enough to be the object of my sanctimonious rants) that being happy is NOT the point of life. And I do believe that, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t WANT to be happy. Where did this dour person come from and how can I get that giddy girl back?
We spent most of today in lectures, because that’s how geeky Georgetown grads are. We come back to school to have more school. And also to remember when we used to sit around having smart thoughts and intelligent discussions for fun. We had several such conversations with total strangers today which is a thing you can do at Georgetown because literally everyone is an intellectual and says words like hermeneutic and heuristic and expects you will understand.
I surprised myself by being able to stay mostly awake for all the lectures, even though I was actually sitting down in the middle of the afternoon. They were all wonderful and maybe I will tell you more about them later, but for now I want to focus on some of my takeaways from the last two.
Professor Glavin of the English Department, whose classes I somehow missed when I was an undergrad, talked about a memoir he’d written and in that context told us that we shouldn’t berate ourselves for all our life decisions. That most of the time we make good decisions, the best ones we can make with the information available to us. That we just don’t have access to all the information, because that’s how life is. That life is a series of parabolas, with upward arcs leading inevitably to failures, that maybe we learn from before we start the next one. That was comforting, his next point less so: that our lives are crossed by meridians–moments of before and after–and that we can never go back across them. He was talking not just of his book but very obviously of what he expected many of us might be feeling as we attended a reunion at a very different Georgetown from the one we remembered.
From here we went to another lecture that focused on personal development and on finding your purpose. We were asked to think about moments when we were happy, really in the moment, feeling a sense of “flow.” Frankly I was getting a little sleepy so I didn’t get everything that was being said, but I was left with an impression that goes along well with some other work I’ve been doing lately on spiritual gifts (about which more later)–that everyone needs to be doing work that fulfills their special purpose. If they don’t, they will never really be happy OR successful.
The first half or maybe more of my life is over (which is something I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time). I can’t go back to my college days (obviously), but I need to figure out what I am supposed to be doing with the rest of my life–and even more important, how to find the time to do that. Maybe that will bring some of my giddiness back too. We shall see.