Well it's eight-thirty and no one is asleep like they should be and we have to get on a plane in ten hours, but I ate cheese dip and brownies and wine for dinner and tomorrow EVERYONE IS SLEEPING IN THEIR OWN BEDS so I call that a win.
A couple of days ago I told someone that this is the easiest, happiest Maine trip we've been on yet as a family, and I immediately regretting saying that because I didn't want to jinx myself, but other than Mary developing a raging upper respiratory infection and refusing to eat or sleep for three days, it's been pretty freaking awesome. Wait--Wes did bring a violent stomach virus into the house (those street jellybeans may have been free, but WE PAID FOR THEM DEARLY) which took down sixty percent of the family all told, a situation made much more inconvenient by the fact that there were ten people and one bathroom, but that was like a week ago so it hardly seems worth mentioning. I would have almost forgotten about it myself except that I had to bring the puke bowls back downstairs while I was packing this afternoon. So I guess what I am saying is that even though the universe tried to strike us down with plagues of vomit and snot, we had a wonderful vacation that actually felt like a vacation for all of us (except for some tense moments a few nights ago when it became clear that Mary planned to never sleep again and be as loud as possible all night long).
My sister and niece were here when we arrived (loudly, at eleven o'clock at night, after vomiting in the driveway) and stayed for the first two nights of our visit. We had SUCH a good time together and so did the cousins. Immediately after breakfast (which happened promptly at the crack of six-fifteen every morning thanks to Maine's position closer to the Artic circle and very far east in the time zone) everyone headed to the dock for fishing and swimming and stayed there ALL DAY LONG.
The first crab was caught within minutes of Charley's feet hitting the floor on his first morning.
Mary hated, then loved the freezing water (we weren't torturing her, by the way, in this picture someone was actually getting Mary OUT of the freezing water after she CLIMBED IN OVER THE RAIL OF THE DOCK BY HERSELF.
Swimming swimming swimming.
Then the PIRATES came back this year like they do every year. There were clues in the banana bowl.
And everyone got their pirate gear on. Mary learned to say "ARRGH!"
The explorers followed clues all over the front yard and the beach before finally finding BURIED TREASURE!!
One morning my sister took allll the kids out on the rowboat. She tried to leave Mary behind with us but Mary stood on the dock hysterically screaming "I BOAT!!! I BOAT!!! I BOAT!!!" at the top of her lungs.
Then we went and did a little tubing.
James was SO EXCITED to go tubing alone this year. He was so brave!
The kids seemed to need an outing one day so we attempted a trolley ride and lunch out. It was sort of a mini disaster, what with all the ketchup the kids drank before our order was ready, but Ryan and I split a Shipyard and sat at a different table, so how bad could it have possibly been?
Did not realize about the lobster sign until recently.
We saw this sign on the way in. They were totally bluffing because we were HIGHLY UNRULY.
After that we all needed a little TV reset time.
And the next day called for a little historical enrichment so we drove to a lighthouse about an hour away that has really awesome rocks that the kids like to climb. Charley "didn't want to get puked on" after what happened on the way in from the train, so he rode like this.
The other reason we went on a day trip was because it was too freezing for the Texans to go swimming. Mary yelled when we got her out of the car "JACKET JACKET JACKET JACKET" and Wes started shivering in line to go in the lighthouse. Kind of a perfect day to visit a lighthouse actually. Even if James had to visit the men's room every forty-five minutes, which is why he and Ryan are not in many pictures.
Charley and Wes caught back up with their friends across the street from last year and the four or five boys spent every spare minute crabbing and fishing off the dock, walking down to the boat ramp to catch hermit crabs, and swinging on a rope swing in their yard. So boy heaven, pretty much.
One night they all walked to the public float to fish for mackerel. All the boys got bites at the same moment. So exciting!!
On Sunday it was raining so we all went to church at the tiny Methodist church in town. The congregation was warm and lovely, the pastor walked right up and introduced herself to the kids, the music was familiar, they had a ministry service dog that immediately entranced the kids and then slept up front during the service. When Mary loudly banged her head on the hymnal rack then started shrieking and I was walking up the aisle to take her out everyone told me "It's NO BIG DEAL! Please don't go! We love kids!" We stayed for coffee hour afterward and got to know some locals over homemade peach crisp and coffee. I am seriously ready to pick up and move.
For our second week we signed Charley and Wes up for Sea and Science Camp, which promised sailing, rowing, and marine science, aka perfect perfect and more perfect. I was SO excited when they told me they had two spots. I arranged all of their stuff the night before, getting a huge kick out of the packing list: lunch, towel, life jacket. What could be better than that??
The kids were EXCITED Monday morning and when we all walked outside to head for camp (which was within walking distance, SWOON) our friends were passing the house. Waiting for them became our routine and something all of us looked forward to.
The first thing Charley said when we picked him up after lunch was "IT WAS AWESOME. CAMP IS AWESOME. I LOVE IT." Also, they had learned to row a boat, the difference between phytoplankton and zooplankton, and started working on knots. They started each day with a weather briefing and kept a scientific journal all week. They had a touch tank on the dock where they could touch lobsters and crabs and anemones. They pulled a seine net in from the water and cataloged all the creatures they found. The kids were in HEAVEN. The second day they went SAILING and Charley came home rattling off sailboat parts with an adorable New England accent (You steer with the "tillah") and then asked Ryan to set up the sailing dinghy so he could KEEP SAILING IN THE AFTERNOON. This was, likely, the happiest moment of Ryan's life. He and Wes and Charley went out and had a BLAST.
Camp sailboats (Ryan and I were so excited about camp that we went on a recon mission to check it out when everyone was asleep the night before).
While the big kids were at camp, we got to do fun things with James and Mary, like go to the harbor for ice cream and go to the beach and swim.
Which is what we were doing when Mary got into some blue oil paint at an art studio.
We took them to a beach.
After camp every day we did walks to the candy store and EVEN MORE SWIMMING and made smores one night.
Unclear on the concept.
The kids tried steamed clams and chowder (chowdah).
Charley and Wes tried to get a seagull to land on James.
The last day of camp everyone went to an open house at a marine research lab. The campers got to do lots of hands on science experiments with the all the postdocs and grad students. Ryan and I took James and Mary too for the public open house. The shore facility was my favorite... James got to collect a plankton specimen and take some other measurements. The scientists were WONDERFUL and he had them all to himself for a while. Wes tells everyone that plankton make 60% of the world's oxygen and James happily chimes in "Thanks Plankton!"
Mary wasn't feeling the science love and later turned out to have a massive ear infection (diagnosed at urgent care and much improved by the time we had to get on the plane thank goodness). She also drank some of an experiment made of seawater mixed with red cabbage dye and then asked for MORE when I took the cup away. GAG.
Most mornings Charley would put his Cheerio bowl in the sink and tell us "I'm going to go haul my traps" as he shouldered his life jacket. Then he would skip down to the dock and pull the lobster trap he borrowed from his friend to check the bait. He caught TWO LOBSTERS (then threw them back because you get in big trouble if you mess with lobsters around here).
Friday afternoon our camp friends stopped by for a glass of wine and some beach time on the last evening of our trip. The kids put on their life jackets and jumped into the water and swam so far my dad got nervous and followed them in the dinghy. They spent over an hour climbing the rocks and splashing around. James was the swimmer of the summer, going from timid on the beach, afraid of what critters might be down there, to jumping off the railing of the dock, swimming across the bay with the other boys, and letting my dad tow him around hanging onto the rowboat.
I sat with my friends and Ryan and my parents on the porch and we watched them having the time of their lives. When everyone was shivering we wrapped them in towels and fed them warm pizza before, regretfully, saying goodbye until next summer.
You guys, we had SUCH a good time. It was more than the sum of its parts--the sense of family, independence, tradition, fun, adventure, rest. The kids came home more confident and closer to each other (and also TOTALLY FILTHY, as evidenced by the PILE OF SAND left in the bathtub tonight after bedtime). The kids LOVED having my parents so close all the time. My parents took such good care of us with food, and laundry, cheering up crabby kids, taking kids on walks, listening intently to their camp stories, celebrating their fish catches, the list is ENDLESS. We did NOT want to leave. It seemed so unfair to take the kids back home to sit in a classroom after their amazing experiences on the water, but this morning (this post obviously having been written in two chunks because it is SO LONG) we packed everyone up at 2:30 and drove to the airport where we walked directly onto the plane after going through security because we were really late for reasons I still don't understand. told them that if we were in Maine all the time it wouldn't be as special as it is now, but I am beginning to wonder if a few more weeks would really take away from the magical time we had this summer and would it hurt to try? We made it home after a screamy (the lady in front of Mary kept shooting dirty looks back at me when Mary screamed until I finally met her gaze and stared until she looked away, I mean seriously, lady, she has an ear infection and neither of us is enjoying this any more than you are) but otherwise uneventful flight and everyone was happy to see our house again. School starts in a week for the big kids and work starts for me. Ryan goes back on Monday. No one understands why it is so hot and why we can't walk to the store like we did in Maine. None of us can wait until next year!