It's been a whirlwind of activity for us since the kids finished school. We celebrated July 4th with the requisite cookout followed by fireworks. We walked to our usual viewing spot at a local park which overlooks Salem Harbor. The kids ran up and down the beach and climbed on the rocks as dusk became dark; once the show began, they all settled down on a blanket with Mom and Dad to ooh and ahh over the display. As we returned home, the boys tried to scare each other with stories of zombies and monsters that lurk in the night while the girls ignored them, calling them "immature". All in all, it was a pretty normal family outing.
A few days later, we headed to New Hampshire for a week of vacation. We've owned a place in Lincoln, a great little town in the White Mountains, for several years now and we all love going there every few months. There's a lake for the kids to swim and fish in, not to mention a river and woods and hiking trails to explore.
There's also a rec center with a pool, an exercise room, racquetball courts, tennis courts, basketball, volleyball....well, you get the point.
Add in the fact that bedtimes are later, more snacks and junk food are consumed than normal, and bathing suits are worn from dawn to dusk, and it's the stuff that childhood dreams are made of under any circumstances. This time, it was made even better for a few reasons.
This summer, we invited Madiyar's friend from Kazakhstan to join us for our NH vacation. Borya (now known as James) was adopted by a family in PA at the same time we adopted Madiyar and Aniyar. Borya's mom Anne is a good friend and blogger buddy of mine so we have been able to keep the boys in touch and get them together a few times already. The summer plan we put together will end up giving the two friends almost 3 weeks together. Borya flew into Boston for his 9 day visit with us, then Borya and Madiyar flew to PA yesterday for 9 days with Borya's family. At the end of the visit, Madiyar will fly home again...no doubt immediately begging for another visit with his friend the second he steps off the plane.
We also celebrated Max's 13th birthday in NH, spreading it out over a couple of days since we were driving on his actual b-day. He didn't seem to mind getting his gifts on Friday, Saturday, and even the last present on Sunday. He tried out his new fishing rod and swim mask; he was especially delighted with the collection of James Bond movies that Dad got for him. Mom managed to rustle up his favorite food for his b-day dinner...barbecued baby back ribs...which we ate outside near the lake. Life was exceedingly good for Max since he could be as messy as he wanted, then jump in the lake to wash off. We even had a cake shaped like a cheeseburger for our newest teen.
Overall, the week was a blast even with an extra teenager to feed (and boy, can they eat!) Madiyar and James enjoyed walks into town to the Dollar Store where Madiyar used entirely too much of his spending money on candy and gum, then worried that he wouldn't have any money to spend in PA. (A lesson in budgeting, my son!) In general, the kids were all really good, probably due to the fact that they were in the lake for hours each day and when they weren't swimming or chasing minnows with a net, they were doing other fairly cool things.
One day, we went to Lost River Gorge where the kids explored caves and Max spent some of his b-day money (Thanks, Aunt Karen and Uncle Mike!) panning for gemstones at the Lost River mine. Another time, we went to Loon Mountain where we had all kinds of fun. We ziplined (yes, even Mom...in spite of my fear of heights, it was awesome! As I told the girls who put me in the safety harness, zipping across the Pemigewasset River on a thin cable is not nearly as dangerous as parenting 5 kids.) The kids also spent a few hours climbing the rock wall and jumping on the bungee trampoline (they loved doing back flips high in the air). We rode the gondola to the top of the mountain. The boys thought the gondola ride was too slow (they were hoping for a death-defying thrill ride) and there was nothing to see at the top (apparently they were unimpressed with the stunningly beautiful view on the surrounding mountains); the girls were thrilled to see a wedding in progress on the mountaintop and loved admiring the bride's gown and flowers. Men really are from Mars and women from Venus, it seems.
Kate and I managed to sneak in some horseback riding, realizing one of her dreams. We spent an hour riding on the mountain trails with a sweet college girl named Annie. She and Kate chattered away as Mom enjoyed the view from the back of the biggest horse I've ever ridden. Andre is a huge grey who is half draft horse; I loved talking to him softly and watching his ears swivel toward me at the sound of my voice. It was a relaxing hour in spite of the 90 degree heat.
The kids also liked tubing and body surfing at the Cascades Park, a part of the Pemi River that has some fun rapids to ride through. Mom and Dad preferred taking Dad's new kayak out on the lake where we could wave at our cherubs standing on the shore. We couldn't hear them bickering from the middle of the lake...it was a nice change of pace.)
Another positive of the vacation was the significantly reduced screen time, especially videogames. Except for a few pinball games in the Rec Center and some TV, the kids were off the couch without complaint. We did treat them to a movie at the theater in town where they saw "The Last Airbender"...and Dad liked it, too. Mom liked missing it in favor of some time in the whirlpool tub with a good book.
We drove home on Friday afternoon and were greeted by exuberant greyhounds who clearly missed us. We unpacked the vehicles, ordered pizza for dinner, and started some laundry. Madiyar repacked his bag with fresh clothes for his trip to PA and the two boys flew out on Saturday to start the next leg of their summer adventure. We now find ourselves with "only" four kids...and it feels a bit strange.
Now on to our next project...we close on our "new" house (as new as a 100 year old house can be) in a little over a week. Then the real fun begins...painting, repairs, moving. I can hardly wait...until our next vacation anyway!