Thursday, August 30, 2012

A House With A View (Or Why I Was Sad To Leave Block Island)

This was our ninth year renting a house on Block Island - and it was our ninth house.  That's right.  We've never rented the same house twice.  Sometimes it's our choice to not return to a particular house the following summer and sometimes we would love to rent the house again but the owner reserved that week for themselves  or else someone with greater means rented the house for the entire summer.  We've learned to not get attached to any particular place.  

For the most part, we have rented some nice places, but we've had some doozies as well.  We have also learned that even the nicest homes usually come with flaws.  Last year's house  - with the broken water filter and therefore no showers - was a good example of a flawed rental.  

The house we rented this year was no exception.  It was by far the nicest home that we've ever rented - it was new and modern and clean, it had a spectacular view.... and yet it had one serious flaw:   the property was RIDICULOUSLY close to the neighbors.  I'm talking 25 paces away on one side and not too much further on the other.  I would have called it a family compound except none of us were remotely related.

As always, our family made the best of the situation and luckily, the weather was so beautiful, we didn't want to spend that much time at home (on top of the neighbors).  

And, when we did find ourselves at home, I made sure to look out to the east because...


The view from the master bedroom deck!

The view from the front:

The view from the side:

And the view from my lounge chair on most nights:

I partook of many a cocktail on this beautiful deck:

And I read many a book (or in this case, magazine, because I had finished all my books):

One evening a gorgeous sail boat joined me for my evening respite:

I sent emails and typed a blog post from this very spot and it was quite a change from my normal computer spot.

Leaving Block Island was particularly sad this year.  Two weeks on the island really cleared my head and I left feeling very relaxed and refreshed.  I miss that beautiful view.  Our town in Massachusetts is certainly pretty but it's more a Green pretty than a Blue pretty.  It will take me a few weeks to get over the change of color!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Friendship Bracelets & Other Assorted Weaving

We let the children purchase a toy at the Block Island toy store each summer.  Purchasing said toy usually takes at least two trips to the toy store, as the children like to look at every thing, weigh their options and then spend a few days contemplating before making their final decision.  My children do not enjoy buyer's remorse.  

This year, Georgia chose a friendship bracelet making kit that was "child-friendly" which is craft-speak for easy.


At some point, Gordy was suckered into opening the box and reading the directions.  These friendship bracelets were made by cutting multiple lengths of thread, tying knots and using a foam-flower to weave the threads into a bracelet.  

The kit came with two foam flowers, so Georgia and Henry got the first try at making the bracelets while Josie sat and watched. 

Henry listened to the directions and got to work immediately:

Within minutes, he had a proper friendship bracelet coming out the bottom of his foam flower.

After the same amount of time and effort and help from both her parents, Georgia did not have a friendship bracelet coming out of her foam flower.

In fact, she had nothing but a hot mess and lots of twisted strands of thread - and it was all because of that parental help!

Josie offered suggestions...

While Gordy cursed and consulted the directions.  What had they done wrong?

I read the directions, too and tried to help but it all sounded like gooblety-gook to me.

I was inspired by all the knotting and weaving to try to french braid Josie's hair instead:

It was similar to friendship-braceletting... right?

Georgia gave up.  Henry finished his bracelet and we vowed to try again the next day using the foam flower that Henry was using (his had three colors which made it easier to keep track of the last weave you had done).  

I do not think we will be giving up our day jobs to become weavers or braiders.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Block Island Labyrinth

For the week that I was on Block Island without Gordy, I stuck to a pretty strict schedule:  the kids did Block Island Club classes in the morning, we'd eat lunch, do a family activity and then hit the beach.  Usually the family activity was just a short walk or quick trip to a tourist site and it's main purpose was to waste just enough time for the families with babies to leave the beach for nap-time thus freeing up a parking space for us to swoop in and claim.  

My strategy worked every time.

The Block Island Labyrinth was the perfect pre-beach activity.  It's not too long, it's located on a hill with a gorgeous view of the ocean and it's conveniently located almost across the street from our favorite beach.

We walked the Labyrinth right as Elizabeth was giving birth to our new nephew / cousin, Owen, and we thought of her and him and Sean, as we walked the many circles to the center.

Well, at least I did.  I'm not so sure about the children.  They've never given birth before and don't know how hard it actually is!

I don't know who is responsible for maintaining this Labyrinth.  The last time we visited this landmark, there was a good deal of poison ivy (Block Island's favorite plant) amidst it's greenery.

On this day, however, the edges of the path were mostly wildflowers and weeds.

Henry decided to run the Labyrinth and therefore, he missed the wonderful view of the ocean over his left shoulder:

He was able to beat Georgia to the center and that's probably the most important thing.

I walked the Labyrinth slowly and thought about Elizabeth and Sean.  It had been a long two days of texting back and forth and following the many twists and turns of the labor.  

I hoped that all was going well and was pretty relieved when we got the message an hour later that baby Owen was finally here.

I like the idea of a Labyrinth.  Walking the circles is very soothing and quieting.  I wonder if there is one any where near our house?  It might be useful in a few weeks when homework and carpool start up again!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Hodge Family Wildlife Preserve

The first week of our Block Island vacation was mainly a beach week.  We got to the ocean in the morning, spread out the blankets, put up the tent, got out the boogie boards and stayed as long as we could.  

We went to the beach almost every day of the second week too, but it was usually later in the afternoon and we never stayed longer than a couple of hours.  In the morning, the children went to their BI Club classes and in the early afternoon, we explored the island.

One of the first places we went was the Hodge Family Wildlife Preserve - which is a beautiful spot with walking trails that lead to a little pond and ultimately the ocean.  We visited the Preserve years ago (Josie was only months old and in a stroller) but we hadn't been back since.  Gordy didn't seem all that interested in going, so I dragged brought the children after he had left the Island.

It was a hot day and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  I knew that in order to get them to walk, a bribe would be in order.  That's right - I am not above bribing my children to do something with me that I want to do.  

My bribe was a Dell's Frozen Lemonade, which I figured would take them at least half the walk to finish and keep them cool for the return half.

I was right, of course, but that didn't mean that this particular bribe didn't come back to bite me on the tush.  (more on this later)

Georgia, lost in her own thoughts, took the lead.

The Hodge Family Preserve is very nice in that it's path is wide and well-mown.  Block Island is covered in poison ivy and no matter how many times I see a picture and hear the "leaves of three, leave them be" rule, I can not properly identify the plant.  It's sad, really.

I stopped to take a few pictures of the flora and fauna:

and of the sky, which was looking particularly beautiful.

It doesn't take you long to get to the pond:

and we stopped to dip our feet into the water:

On the way back, I paused again to take a photo of a butterfly ...

and a discarded robin's egg:

I absolutely love how visible the ocean is from almost every point on Block Island.  You really get a sense of solitude and peace with every vista:

and that's when the children finished their drinks and I ended up lugging the empty cups and straws back to the car.  Sigh.

I should have thought of a treat that had no trash at the end!

Bribing is never without consequences!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Block Island Club

Over the many years that we have vacationed on Block Island, our family has passed the weather-beaten sign for The Block Island Club hundreds of times.  The sign rests at the end of a long, long driveway, so we never knew what the club really was.  In my mind, I pictured an exclusive pool resort with waiters, fruity drinks with umbrellas and rich women lounging in the sun while their children played with nannies on the lawn.  When we made the decision to stay on the island for two weeks instead of one, I looked up the Club on the internet to see if it were possible to join for just a week - I figured that it might be a good idea to have options if the children got bored of the beach.  It ends up that my image of Palm Beach exclusivity couldn't have been more wrong - and really, judging how low-key and family-friendly Block Island is in general, I'm not quite sure what I had been thinking.  The Block Island Club is really a place for children to take swimming, tennis or sailing lessons and to meet other children who are staying on the island.  The word Club is what threw me.  Calling the facility The Block Island Camp would probably be more appropriate, except that it does have memberships for just adults who wish to kayak or sail.  

Gordy was leaving the island after the first week of our vacation and I wanted the children to have some time away from each other (and I wanted at least an hour every day to exercise or just not be spoken to).  We paid for a week membership, bought a bunch of tickets (how you pay for individual classes) and started up that second Monday.  

But before all the sailing, tennis and art lessons commenced, we took advantage of the ample kayaks and paddle boards available to the members.

Three years ago, Gordy and I rented Kayaks from a local place on the island and took the kids out for an early-morning paddle.  

It did not go well.  

The children got hot.  The children got tired.  The children began a campaign of unbelievable complaining.

We had only be gone for 5 minutes of the 60 minutes we had paid for.

Needless to say, we weren't eager to pay for the experience again - but using the clubs' boats was a different story.

We signed out three kayaks and figured that however long the kids lasted would be fine.

It took a few minutes to get everyone outfitted in life vests and while that happened, I took some photos of the Coast Guard Lighthouse across the harbor:

Josie tried out the kayaks and found the one that best matched her life vest:

One doesn't want to color clash with one's boat, after all.

The below photo is not a photo of my family kayaking:

This is:

Yep.  That's right.  Within five minutes, all three children had tired of the kayaking and had brought their boats back to the shore.  And then, as if to prove that that act wasn't lazy enough, they all "went swimming" which really meant doggy-paddling to Gordy's kayak and then hanging on while he lugged them back into shore.

Crazy, huh?

Some children have so much nerve!

On the second Monday of our trip, I began what was a daily ritual for the rest of the week:  we woke up, ate breakfast, drove Josie and Georgia to an art lesson at the club, Henry stayed "and read" (insert eye roll here) while I exercised for an hour, we picked up the girls, drove to the Block Island Depot for a New York Times and a snack, I then drove back to the club, dropped Georgia and Josie off at a tennis lesson and Henry off at sailing, ran an errand, picked G&J up an hour later and brought them for more errands or back home for lunch, drove BACK to the club an hour after that to pick Henry up from sailing.  That was three back-and-forths a day..... but three back-and-forths minus two free hours for mom = fine by me.

Hooray for the Block Island Club!

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