I Have Squandered My Days With Plans of Many Things

For the better part of the last decade, I’ve spent the bulk of my summer vacation working on and being injured by various home improvement projects at the house, briefly interrupted at some point by a week’s vacation in a cottage on the water somewhere up north. This year, things were a little different.

  • First, because we’ve moved. The new(ish) house is larger but more importantly in significantly less need of repair than the old house. Which means that there’s just not as much for me to do – in spite of the ceiling fixtures and curtain rods I replaced last week. And all of the missing sheetrock in the basement from our flood which I have yet to replace.

  • Second, because we moved to an island. Our original plan was to skip the cottage entirely and just enjoy our first real summer on the island, though we pivoted on that to take a week at a cottage earlier in the summer to overlap with a friend’s kids. We followed that up with weekends camping with friends, Eleanor’s first sleepover with friends, visiting a friend’s Vermont lakehouse, making two separate trips to another friend’s place on a private island in Casco Bay, and one to my sister-in-law’s cottage up in South Bristol.

  • Third, because unlike in her early years there was no daycare for the six year old. The front part of her summer was loaded with all kinds of day camps – acting, STEM, magic and more. The last couple of weeks of August, she was home with us. Which meant dreaming up new ways to keep her entertained.

We did our best.

Anyway, here’s what I did on my summer vacation.

I opened the first morning of summer vacation by trying to kill time with Eleanor by making breakfast eggrolls. Not only did she not want to eat them, she managed to repeatedly scald me with molten oil by dropping them in from a foot above the wok.

Not good times, bad times.

Later that afternoon, however, we were up at Kate’s parents’ place for a birthday party and some cousins time.

The next day, she disappeared for an hour and wouldn’t let me see what she was doing until she emerged with some homemade – and hand decorated – armor.

Out of both a desire to be productive and a need to begin prepping for school re-entry, I took some time to set up a combination digital calendar/picture frame/weather station/family to do list/tide chart. So far, so good.

With the girls gone for dinner at a friend’s house, I took the opportunity to try and make dumplings from scratch by hand. Unsurprisingly, things didn’t end well and I did not even ask them to try them later.

Apart from the aforementioned light fixtures and curtain rods, the only real home improvement project was building a shelf behind the old, inherited sectional couch in our basement. I cut up the same 2×6’s that once were part of the wheelchair ramp I made for my Dad, stained them, dropped in a power outlet and called it good.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever caught a sunrise while on vacation before – in fact, I’d bet against it. But I was there for a couple of good ones.

Later, we built a fort.

And she read to me in it.

We rode bikes all over the island, which was mostly fun. Except for the days when it was hot and she’d want to walk the bikes back halfway across it.

Set a walking goal before the start of the year, and after crossing a particular milestone there was only one GIF to talk about what was left.

Headed up to my Mom’s place to see my brother and nephews, and, well, the usual weather followed.

The next day the cousins came down to the beach by our house and, well, the usual weather followed.

Two days later, we all went to Splashtown Funtown. It was as advertised, though just take my word for it: don’t get on the Tilt-a-Whirl. Even if your beloved daughter says “Daddy, will you take me on the Tilt-a-Whirl?”

In between our various adventures, Eleanor and I spent a lot of time sitting together on the couch reading while poor Kate had to work.

Then there was the day I was tasked with sewing together “vests” for her stuffed animals, and sewing tiny ferns on to those vests. Turns out I’m a lot better at reading to her than I am sewing.

Another night, one when Kate had to work, Eleanor and I made orange chicken together. The bad news is that she didn’t like it and wouldn’t eat it. The good news is that she didn’t manage to burn me this time.

Arguably the highlight of my vacation was taking Eleanor up to my happy place, one I’ve visited every summer for well over a decade. We were supposed to do this as a family, but the weather and schedule didn’t cooperate the week Kate had off, so instead I just took my sidekick.

Over the weeks I was out, I got a lot better at making cardboard weapons.

To the point that I ended up having to create an assembly line of sorts to manufacture them at scale.

By the end of vacation it was cool enough for firepits, and we got to deploy the new Solo heat deflector for the first time. Early verdict is that it does work and deflect heat to the sides, but you have to be close.

Vacation nights, I’d close the day by watching the kinds of movies that I hadn’t seen since a sleepover at a friend’s house when I was a kid. And probably didn’t need to see again because they were awful and should never have been made.

And then, on one of our last beach days of the summer, Eleanor got to make her paddle board debut thanks to an incredibly kind neighbor.

All in all, while it wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns – there were some rainy days in there – it was a summer of adventures that Eleanor hopefully will remember for a long time. And worst case and she forgets, I can always send her this.

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