Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Winding Down; Cottage 2016

This morning when I stepped outside..... it felt like fall.  Aside from my summers in Colorado, I've never lived anywhere other than the Midwest, so I have no idea if this smell is one that everyone knows... or one that is unique to us.  It's especially difficult to describe as it just smells like fall.  The air is cooler and gone is the humidity that seems to drape over our shoulders all summer long. There's a crispness that you can feel and almost taste---like nature is just tempting your taste buds to imagine apple crisp and pumpkin pie and those treats that inexplicably taste best during the next two months.  I think this change in weather, this change in atmospheric pressure (whatever that is), these noticeably shorter days and cool, crisp mornings are nature's tangible way of helping me loosen my oh-so-tight grip on summer.  They give me something physical to see and smell and taste, which helps me say goodbye....and lessen the heartache of summer's end just a little bit.

But if I squint my eyes shut and hold my breath I can still feel summer.

There's sand between my toes, even after rinsing them off in the big white enamelware basin outside the door to the cottage.  My hair is windblown and tufts of sun-bleached blonde strays peek out from the braid under my headband.  My shoulders are a little achy from kayaking and my abs are a little sore from paddleboarding.  My skin is browner than it's been in years, a testament to the serious vow we took at the beginning of summer-- We Spahns (three of us, anyway) do solemnly swear, to spend as much time outside as humanly possible...  And when we're at the cottage, this is truer than any other week of the summer.  I haven't been out of a swimming suit for days-- and even then it's usually just to put another one on or slip into a t-shirt for bedtime.  I've noticed that my family's hair seems to have a permanent lake smell-- a sweet combination of sunscreen and sweat and the crystal clear lake water.  As I lie down at night, I feel like I'm floating on the little waves of the lake, gently rocking in the kayak with Charlie or Anna straddled between my legs as they navigate our short little journey.

With my eyes closed, my heart aches for the week we just had in the Northwoods.  A week of sun and laughter and relaxation.  A week of good food and good friends and good conversations-- and of course plenty of good beer and vodka and wine.  (Yes, there was plenty of that.)  Oh, and a week of the Olympics-- let's not forget the Olympics.  We spent as much time as possible lounging around the lake, playing in the sand, swimming in the shallow bay, jumping off the worn dock.  We paddle-boated and kayaked and paddle-boarded.  We used the old fishing motor boat to reach speeds fast enough to create crazy wind-blown hairdo's, send children into fits of laughter, and pull kids in tubes behind the boat.  In the morning, Mason and I putzed around the lake as he pointed out places of interest and old cabins that reminded him of stories from days gone by.

Citronella candle drumming...

We looked over and someone was o-u-t. 

We left the house a few times-- to indulge the kids in go-karts, and ski shows, and hand-dipped ice cream.

Wisconsin toys

Our whole crew.

The kids thought this sign was the-absolute-best.  

Anna was not happy when Daddy stole a scoop of her 'Ice keem'. 

But the vast majority of our time was spent just hanging out, with no agenda and no particular place to go.  Charlie loved playing with his friends outside-- catching frogs, playing football, jumping in the water, "boating" in our bay, building sand sculptures, and  keeping busy inside with matchbox cars and board games and endless ping pong matches.  Excuse me, I mean "table tennis".   In fact, shortly after our guests left, we took a kayak ride and he looked up at me and said, "Mom, this is okay but it's a lot more fun with Jack and Danny here."  My eyes instantly welled up with tears-- not because he wasn't having fun with me, but because he had had such an incredible week with his friends.  At the cottage, things are slower and more intentional.  Charlie plays with a ferver that we don't see often.  He's totally present, engaged, and caught up in the moment.  I watch him and listen to his voice, his giggle, his uncontrollable laughter and feel so fortunate to give him (and his sister) this opportunity.

Seriously, thighs!

Hey frog...

Walkie talkies were a huge hit

Checking on the frogs caught earlier in the day...

This girl has absolutely no fear-- and loves every second of the water. 

And while the cottage is truly magical to us, it doesn't allow us to completely escape reality.  We dealt with emails and life news and daily ups and downs (is it even possible to escape ups and downs when you have little children with you?) but at the end of it all, the day felt like the gentle rock of the lake waves-- easing in and out, rolling along easily in response to whatever creates those waves in the first place.

Oh, and one more thing...

The night of the ski show we trodded into the cottage after a long day on the lake.  We bathed and scrubbed the kids-- getting sand and dirt and lake out of all the squishy places.  We put on clean clothes, hopped in the car and headed over to the Chain Skimmers ski show.  As the adults watched the action on the water, the kids ran around the beach, poured sand in shoes, and then began making sand-angels and literally rolling around in the sand.  At the end of the show, they were covered head to toe in sand.  And we grownups looked at each other and knew they needed to rinse off but well, we had wine to drink and adult conversations to have and baths sounded like a lot of work.....

So we may have suggested skinny-dipping.  The boys rand down to the lake, Dan tossed them a bar of soap and I swear to GOD.  I have not smiled so big in years.  The giggles, the squeals, the shrieks of laughter-- I promise I will never forget it.  And I have to say, swim trunks were optional all the days after that.  So good.  So so good.