Sure, it’s nice – getting a week between Christmas and New Year’s off as a freebie vacation week. That week is one of the many benefits of working in higher ed.
Except when you’re sick.
It hit us the weekend before Christmas: a scratch throat, a groggy unease, and sinus pain that felt like continual just-before-you-sneeze agony. Then, from Christmas day to just this week, a persistent sickness. It didn’t ruin the holidays, but it certainly wasn’t fun.
Maybe it’s a good thing I had that week off. But there are better ways to spend a vacation than homebound misery.
So I took the usual Christmas morning photos of the kids opening presents. Other than that, and despite some big photo plans I had, I just didn’t get much done. Instead, I’ll share some pre-Christmas fun in the playroom with the kids.
Before the snow fell. Before the presents showed up under the tree. Before the misery.
Everything is different this year: new house, new family dynamic, and heck – even a new place for our Christmas tree.
This time we went to the well-known family name, the one you pass on the highway with the big sign. And wouldn’t you know it, the nice weather met us there and made for a fun family outing (and great photos). It’s one of those holiday traditions we look forward to every year.
Like Christmas Vacation, right? Everyone loves that movie. You can’t help but think of the Griswolds every time you head out to the countryside to grab a Christmas tree.
Plenty of things change, but we try to keep these kinds of things steady.
And not just for the better. As a parent, you can’t help but worry about your kid. Will they be safe? Will they be healthy? Will they always be around? I noticed my brain going down some very dark alleys after I had kids, often despite my best efforts. “Don’t worry,” I told myself. “Not much you can do about the unknown.”
Except my thoughts went to those dark places anyway. They still do.
Photography is a great way to show your love and appreciation of your family members. But to some, it can be a way to manage the anxiety of raising a child. I feel this often. If I’m photographing my kids, that means I’m with them. If I’m with them, that means I can prevent the bad stuff from happening.
That’s silly, of course. Bad stuff can still happen, even if I’m there. Photography is merely the excuse to keep the dark thoughts away, if only for a little while.
In Caspar Claasan’s project, he mentioned that things got better over time. If that’s true, than the photos I make now will remind me of the fears I had from an earlier period.
This was it – the last big adventure of the summer, saved until the end.
The trick was lining up our northern Michigan vacation with the grandparents’ schedules. One pair in Mackinaw City for a few days, and the other in Petoskey for the second half. Help with adventures, babysitting, and overnights. With three kids, taking one to spend time with the grandparents relieves a bit of the strain.
Not that this was stressful. No, northern Michigan moves at a vacation pace. Water, and sky, and enough green and blue to make both of our major state university fans happy.
This close to Lake Michigan, and this close to all those forests – it’s a proper goodbye to nice weather, and water, and wilderness for a while. We even said goodbye to the trout sunning themselves at an honest-to-goodness fish hatchery, complete with a bald eagle waiting, and watching, in the canopy above.
It’s what’s so great about living in our state. A few hours in every direction and you’re next to a giant freshwater lake and enough nature to forget that it’ll all be buried in snow and ice in a few months.
It was supposed to be an easy-going four day vacation – a quick trip down to Toledo, Ohio (the Midwest’s premier getaway destination, naturally) and visit the zoo on Friday. Our first trip with the three kids.
What we got instead was a near-drowning in the hotel pool, a scary trip to the emergency room, and a rainy zoo day.
Despite all that, we made the best of it. We took an impromptu trip back to the Toledo Zoo on Saturday, when it was warm and sunny, and did it right. We also met some friends at Tony Packo’s and enjoyed some good Hungarian hot dogs, coney style.
Easy-going? Not so much. But we got out of the house and started the vacation season in earnest.
We never had to prompt either kids to pick up a crayon and start doodling.
They both do it totally on their own. The crayons are always there, there’s always paper handy – they just need to sit down and scribble. It’s what they do.
That’s a good feeling, to have both kids take to art and music. It’s our fault, of course, as parents, because we surround ourselves with such things. It’s what we do.
As a kid, my parents always had music going in the house, and we loved to doodle and color in coloring books. But neither of my parents really did music (like play an instrument), or did art (as a hobby, say). I took their small spark and ran with it.
It’s exciting to think about what these kids will do.
We wait all winter for days like this: sunny, decently warm, fresh breeze blowing.
In our new neighborhood, we’re surrounded by parks and playgrounds. Sparks Park – kind of Jackson’s own Central Park – is a block or two away, and we have several schools in the street next to ours, lousy with playground equipment. Our old neighborhood was very walkable, but it’s nice being so close to all this fun.
Now, when we go on walks around the neighborhood, the kids beg to go to one of the playgrounds. I have a feeling we’ll spend a lot of time here.
And that’s great. For today, we’re just happy to be outside.
I’ve spent the last week enjoying our new baby daughter, Riley May Lawrence.
She arrived early Tuesday morning, purple and gooey, and has been either eating or sleeping since. We got back home on Friday afternoon, and took most of the weekend getting settled: spending time with the other two kids, getting our routine down, and taking care of the baby.
This baby – the c-section, the hospital stay, our sleep cycle – has been a smooth one. We’re lucky. We’re also lucky to get lots of help from grandparents and friends. And our new house is prepped enough to make the living part easy.
I’m taking this next week off of work, too (the first time in my working life I’ve had two consecutive weeks off), to help with the kids, enjoy the new baby, and help my wife around the house. Plus photo making, of course.
Life gets really simple when you have one big (or tiny, as it were) priority. I find it surprisingly relaxing to tune out everything else and concentrate on this crying, squeaking little person.