For the first time since we had children, we drove to the cabin at night. We originally planned to leave after lunch, but I had too much work to do and we weren’t ready. Then we thought we’d leave as soon as the worst of rush hour traffic passed, but we still weren’t ready and a giant storm was due to blow through. When we finally drove off, it was 9:20. The kids have been going to bed late recently (where late can be 9:30-10) but I was still surprised how long they stayed awake. Tim mercifully zonked out quickly and was no trouble at all (we’ve had some awful drives with babies and toddlers as we’ve made our annual 200 mile trek here and back). We let Peter and Leo each have half an hour with the iPad. Leo fell asleep around 10:30 after begging for a lot of food but Peter hung on until just after midnight. Tim woke up briefly when we stopped at a gas station at 11:30. I took him out of his seat and he nursed a bit. I gave him a wet washcloth to gnaw on and he fell asleep quickly in his car seat. We arrived in near-record time for even pre-children days at 1am. All three boys woke up and stayed up until we’d gotten the beds made and suitcases brought inside at 2:30. I don’t think we’ve ever had them all awake in the middle of the night like that. The big kids were awake before 9am and Tim and I stayed in bed a little longer.
I hate ticks. First one found on my leg at 10am on day 1. Luckily it was still easy to remove. Yuck yuck yuck. The second one was found on my leg 8 hours later. Why do they like me and not the kids, who are meandering through the woods? Although, would a tick found on one of them be better or worse? I’m not sure.
I love how isolated we are here. It’s not the Boundary Waters level of isolation or anything, but not having constant internet and even lacking phone service is nice now and then. If there’s an emergency, the next-door neighbors are 200 feet away and live here year-round with things like a phone. We go to town every few days to use the wi-fi but then I find that after an hour, I’ve read everything I want to read and I’m ready to go home. So how do I spend so much more time online when I’m home? I ended up with more work to do than I expected over the past couple weeks, so I’ve needed to work about 3 hours a day while I’m here. It’s not ideal, but without internet, I’m a lot more efficient than at home and can work quickly. If our siblings and cousins were here like most years, it would be harder because we like to sit around playing cards at night and wondering how we can expand the cabin or buy the second-cousins’ shares in it someday. With the whole cabin* to ourselves, I have a “study” bedroom that doubles as a safe place to let Tim wander around without worrying about all the death traps he’s sure to fall into. I’m finding that I write a lot more and get a chance to read without the internet sucking up my time, despite working more hours than I generally do at home.
Peter and especially Leo have been playing Settlers of Catan for hours on end. “Playing” might be a better way to put it. They understand all the rules and Leo loves to set up the board, preferably in his own wacky ways, but they mostly lack the patience to play a game start to finish. After most of a week here, we have successfully finished only one game, I think. If I play with them, I insist on using the basic Settlers board with the only modification being the substitution of a gold hex for the desert. Leo really likes making the longest roads and Peter buys lots of development cards, which he calls deployment cards. They don’t really care if their settlements are in the optimal spots and will trade 4:1 when it isn’t in their best interest. I get twitchy trying to explain these strategic niceties, but if it means that Peter starts a screaming fit, it’s not worth it and I might as well let him trade in all his cards. I don’t bend the rules for them when I play (and they’d probably call me on it if I did) but I will trade when it benefits them more than it does me. I figure I’m making up for having settlements in all the best spots. I think we’ve lost a few pieces by now, which irritates me, but I realized I should just get some sculpey and make more instead of telling them constantly that not being careful with the pieces makes me crazy.
Yesterday I taught them how to play Clue. I love Clue – it feeds off my obsessive list-making self – but Dan’s never been a fan. I assume it’s for the same reason that I love logic puzzles and he hates them. Leo found it in the closet and I decided they might get the hang of it. By golly, they did. I kept having Dan check to make sure Leo was showing us cards when he was supposed to, but he always was right. They occasionally let out information at extra times, but with the help of large books positioned to shield their cards and my avoidance of extra-detailed note-taking led to Peter winning pretty quickly. Like Catan, they don’t have a full sense of the strategy behind it, but full understanding of the rules is enough to play without much frustration from me. I love, love, love that they’re old enough for my favorite games now. I’ll have to ask my dad for the true version, but I seem to remember playing Clue for the first time at age 5 and winning and I love having my kids continue in that path.
I love our lake. It’s big, about 5 miles long, but not too busy. Even over the 4th of July weekend, we saw boats, but not constantly, and no jet-skis rushing around. That’s probably the one advantage to be this far from the Twin Cities. The lake is deep and spring-fed so it’s not too warm, but there aren’t any algae and it’s very clear. The shoreline is mostly rocky on our side and every few years I try to move rocks over to the jetty so it won’t be as painful getting to the deeper areas, but it’s a fairly hopeless endeavor. This year the water’s high so there isn’t anywhere shallow enough for Tim to sit and splash. He is fascinated by the lake but not terribly enthusiastic once he’s in it. He doesn’t hate it as much as I remember the older boys as babies, though. Peter finally dared go in the water without his life jacket on Thursday. I love being able to go down to the water 2 or 3 times a day and just swimming for 15 minutes if I feel like it. There’s no annoying drive home in wet clothes or feeling like we should stay for hours to get our money’s worth. Two years ago I learned how to wakeboard here, although I’ve been water skiing since I was 7. Leo said he would finally try waterskiing this year, but we’ll need to wait until we can go out to my sister’s house and use her boat.
Having Tim at the cabin hasn’t been too difficult. I think the hardest year was when Peter was 3 and Leo was 1. They were both very capable of running around with only minimal ability to keep out of danger. By 4, Peter was somewhat more willing to listen to boundaries. Last summer when they were 5 and 3, Dan’s sister was here almost the whole time we were and she could play Battleship and Yahtzee with Peter, leaving only Leo for us to worry about. In those toddler/preschooler years we tried to come when as many adults were around as possible so we’d know if a child ran down to the lake or out to the road, at least at first until we settled in. But now the older boys read old comic books and Easy Readers from the 50’s or play games together a substantial amount of the time. I tend to work whenever Tim’s napping and after the boys are asleep. Tim’s teething teeth #5 and #6 (the top left-of-center tooth came through on Thursday) and seems to be nursing and cranky more than usual, so I’ve been reading a lot as he nurses and sometimes falling asleep with him. When I first came with Dan’s family 15 years ago, his cousin was Leo’s current age and was always begging someone to come down to the lake with her. It’s fun to realize that she’s now 20 and hasn’t needed chasing for a long time. It won’t be that long before Peter and Leo can go swim together while we sit inside. I didn’t have that “egads, how will we keep them safe?” dread before we came that I’ve had in past years. Tim does try to eat Styrofoam from the closet and climb onto rickety chairs, but there’s only one of him and occasionally Peter can even briefly keep track of him if necessary.
On Friday, Tim started finding ways to get into trouble. He’d climb onto his little chair and inevitably fall over. I’d try to blockade him in somewhere and he found the weak spot. When we were outside, he went straight for the stairs. So we got out the pack-n-play and put him in there with toys while we sat nearby, both outside and inside, but that didn’t last too long either. Eventually I kept bringing him to the front bedroom, with its door that latched closed. I let him get into everything there, none of which was dangerous, so I could sit back without stress and read for a while. We were ready to go home on Saturday to our child-safe house.
* The cabin consists of 200 feet of lakeshore, with 60 steps up to the cabin itself built by Dan’s great-uncles and great-grandfather in the 1950’s, a small kitchen, a living/dining room with lots of old rocking chairs and a couch, an iffy bathroom, two bedrooms that were added and insulated in the 80’s, and a loft with 2 queen beds. In other years, we’ve had 12 people here for a long weekend if a couple or two is willing to bring a tent. It feels luxurious to have the 600 square feet for just the 5 of us.