Friday, July 23, 2010

Random Minnesota: Part 2

Here are the players in this post. Barb and Roger are the parents of George and Angela, Mike is married to Angela, Eli and Matt are Angela's children, I'm married to George, and Nick and Jack are our children. Don't worry. There are no quizzes on this blog.

Our visit to Minnesota began with a visit to the nursing home to visit Great-Grandma Angela. She turns 99 next month and had never met Jack.

After this visit, we headed to Pehrson's Resort. As soon as the whole family had arrived safely at the cabin after long, long drives, George’s father announced that this vacation was a trial run for Hawaii in two years. He and George’s mom would only invite us all to Hawaii to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary IF we behaved for the week at the lake.

This is an excellent way to bribe eight other people into behaving well while sharing a cabin for week.

The water of Lake Vermilion is cold, cold, cold. Neither Matt (above) or Jack (below) cared.

Nick, however, had a harder time adjusting to the cold. When swimming with George one day, he was easing into deeper water when the cold hit his privates. That’s when he suggested that, when he grows up, he wants to invent “’nad-heated swimwear.”

I’ve never heard the word “’nad” so much as on this vacation.

Eli (above, center), George’s nephew, didn’t feel well the first day and woke up the second with a fever. Of course, this meant a trip to the Cook Medical Center, along with lots of jokes about quality medical care in small-town emergency rooms from his mom, who works at a large and well-respected big-city medical center. Poor Eli. The ER doc took one look at his throat and said, “Well, that’s nasty.” Then the doctor prescribed antibiotics and narcotics. Woohoo! The drugs knocked Eli out until the fever came back, necessitating a return to the Cook Medical Center for more powerful antibiotics that included a shot in the butt. Not very dignified for a 20-year-old man, do you think? After another day of sleeping it off, Eli emerged with feeling much better and joined the fun, after enduring lots of jokes for his bare-butt medical adventure.

Bare butts and ‘nads. Can you tell the boys in the cabin out-numbered the girls 7 to 3?

Matt, George’s other nephew, spent hours every night up the hill behind the cabin to talk to his girlfriend on the phone. None of us but Angela had cell phone service in the cabin, which was in a bit of a dead zone. He proudly showed off his mosquito bites after the first night, until his mom started wiping him with bug wipes each night before he headed off to converse with his lady-love.

Most of us thought Matt’s young love was cute, but his brother found it revolting, which reminded me of how my sister felt when George and I were young and silly. Isn’t this the universal condition of siblings, who suddenly have to share their closest living relative with a virtual stranger?

Anyway, Matt’s girlfriend sent a text message to Angela (above, right) asking her to find out Matt’s ring size so she could give him a promise ring before he headed off to college in July. Angela, not surprisingly, was baffled by how she could surreptitiously find out her son’s ring size and discussed the request with me, Eli, and Barb while we sat at the table together. By lucky coincidence, Angela was playing with a twist-tie from a loaf of bread when Matt walked in. She said, “Matt, give me your hand. I want to put this on your finger.” Eli, Barb, and I started laughing hysterically at the subtlety of Angela’s tactic, which pretty much doomed it to failure because Matt got all suspicious and wanted to know why his mother needed to put a twist-tie on his finger.

One evening, George teased and tickled Jack, who pretended to be angry but kept going back for more. Then, suddenly, Jack stomped away and said, “I am walking crossly away!” The adults all laughed, but unfortunately, Jack’s imaginative play had transitioned to real and righteous anger in a flash none of us adults understood or even caught until it was too late. Our laughter suddenly seemed ill-timed and hurtful, and we all felt bad. But honestly, how can you NOT laugh when a child narrates his actions as if he were in a Thomas the Tank Engine story?

Extreme ping pong (that is, ping pong played without rules of any kind) is far more fun than regular ping pong. Mike and Nick (above) invented the game, and Angela and I joined them for extreme doubles play. The ball seemed to resent the lack of rules and kept escaping out the porch windows to hide in the shrubbery.

George and I really, really need a ping pong table in our basement. Extreme ping pong is a sport I can get excited about because you cannot lose or even do it badly.

Pontoon boats are just cool. Thanks to my father-in-law Roger (above) for giving us an awesome morning on one. The resort also had kayaks, paddle boats, and canoes which we took full advantage of. I love kayaking. It’s the most peaceful activity, unless, of course, you are out with a ten-year-old who decides that it’s a perfect opportunity for an epic whine-fest. I stayed with Nick while watching George and Jack, in the two-person kayak, go merrily off across the water. I finally convinced Nick to go back to the dock, escorted him there and handed him off to his kind aunt while I paddled back out to meet George and Jack. At least Nick tried.

My sister-in-law and I walked out on a dock. “Oh, look at the mallard!” I said. “Yes,” she replied. Then, a few seconds later, she noticed that it was bobbing oddly. “Uh, Susan, I don’t think it’s real. It’s a decoy.” I looked again, and felt stupid. Angela is so sweet…she didn’t even laugh at me. Fortunately, we did see many living, breathing birds, including several families of ducks—moms with their babies—that more than made up for my moment of stupidity.

Sometimes, transitioning Nick and Jack to a fun activity is a real challenge. I KNEW they would enjoy the kids’ nature cruise the resort offered, but both acted like all I was asking them to write a book report. I dragged them kicking and whining to the waiting pontoon boat where both of them were forced to have a good time entirely against their wills. Here's photographic proof of their initial reluctance.

How did I keep on living under the weight of their scorn?

Once they got over it, we learned how beavers affect the landscape over time, how loons are very territorial and bicker with each other (oh, we know about bickering!), and how Black Bay got its name. We saw herons, an eagle sitting in a nest, and a bunch of loons (including a baby on its mom's back). Nick even got to drive the boat. Twice. That certainly put a smile on his face. Both admitted that sometimes, mom is actually right.

Nick wanted to learn how to fish while on vacation.

George and Grandpa took him out and he was very enthusiastic, saying he would bring back dinner. After he caught a fish, however, he realized that to eat his catch, he would have to kill it. My son, bless him, discovered that he’s more of a catch-and-release kind of fisherman. Like me, he would much rather purchase his formerly-breathing food neatly prepared by someone else and packaged in nice, sterile Styrofoam trays. We would both starve in a survival situation.

We’re totally okay with that.

This was the first time Barb and Roger had all four of their grandsons in one place at the same time. Don't they look happy? Well, not Roger so much in this picture, but I assure you, he was happy as a golden retriever with a stick.

It was also the first time Great-Grandma Angela had all four of her great-grandsons in one place at the same time.

It was a great pleasure to spend time with George’s nephews. They are grown men now, and they reminded me what our goal is with our boys…to raise adults we want to spend time with. Plus, they were both really kind to their much younger cousins.

The sunset view out of our cabin was beautiful each night. A picture of it (taken by George) pretty much sums up the beauty of our whole vacation.

What most marked our week at Lake Vermilion was the laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Isn’t it great to be part of a family that knows how to laugh?

I’m happy to report we all passed Barb and Roger’s test for Hawaii. At least for now. Two years is such a long time for us all to be on our best behavior….


  1. Susan,your pictures are beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I love your humour and always have a chuckle when reading your posts! Interestingly the one thing that stuck out for me today was your mention of raising your boys to be adults you want to spend time with as that's exactly how I feel about my daughter who will somehow be turning 27 next week! I don't think I ever consciously thought of that as a goal but I'm so happy I succeeded and I am sure you will too! I think the very fact you can discuss 'nads with them is a sure sign of success! lol! Have a happy's going to be another hot and steamy one here in Florida. Cheers, Janice.

  2. What a wonderful vacation!! I love your photos!! And, having two boys, 'nads' and other nicknames are just part of it. Lillie (my 9 yo daughter) are so much more grown up--we say 'vagina' just to watch the boys squirm!!
    I know what you mean about raising our children to be adults we like to be with--our 19yo son is simply that. When did he change from a mouthy 14 yo to a patient, brilliant, incredibly funny adult??? And good lookin to boot!! I really really like him--
    And I am so GLAD to hear you're planning for another dog--Hoover is smiling you know. And for what it's worth, we're fostering a teeny orange tabby girl. We started calling her 'Molly' until her future little boy child named her 'Tiger'. So, we call her 'Tiger Molly' and everyone is happy.... perhaps "Daisy Molly"???

  3. great pictures, susan!
    sounds like you had a wonderful vacation. such fun to watch your fellas grow up. these are such good years for your family. laughter is magic. looks like you are doing a great job.
    thanks for sharing!!


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