Tag Archives: Grand Rapids

Rant: ARTPRIZE

While I believe ArtPrize is a great event, it is far from perfect.

My complaint: the crowds. First, a ridiculous amount of visitors crowd into the city. This increases the traffic exponentially. Grand Rapids is relatively traffic-free. It’s not that waits don’t occur, they simply pale in comparison to regular rush-hour/construction/weather-related/seasonal jams elsewhere. If you have ever sat on I-696, I-96, or US-23 in metro-Detroit on a Friday afternoon in the summer when everyone has decided to leave work an hour early to beat the traffic; you know what I mean. If you have ever been on I-75, I-4, I-95 when the sudden influx of snowbirds have migrated south in their silver or gold Lincolns and Cadillacs and Buicks, complete with beaded seat covers and lack of turn-signals and proportionally deficient maximum speed-limits; you know what I mean. If you have ever been tailgated, cut-off, or passed with a baleful look and colorful language by a rear-wheel drive sportscar in a complete whiteout and zero-visibility, only to creep by the very same vehicle mere miles but unfortunate and irritating hours later as it is towed across the now-closed outer two lanes from the median ditch; you know what I mean. If you have permanently affixed an unkindly gesturing hand out your driver window as the well-coiffed in their import vehicles have ignored the “Left Lane Closed in 2 Miles… 1 Mile… 1000 Feet… 500 Feet” to favor a self-indulging zipper merge; well, you know what I mean. So, when I claim that Grand Rapids is relatively traffic-free, it’s a real, apparent blessing.

Therefore, with the mass influx of visitors during ArtPrize, the city undergoes a traffic transformation that can be extraordinarily frustrating on a typical commute. Simply finding parking can be an enormous challenge as “Lot Full” signs litter an otherwise easily-navigable city.

And the traffic frustrations are not limited to vehicular crowding. The foot traffic is outrageous. Waits in lines become regular. At the grocery store, pharmacy, post office, park, funeral home, wherever. It seems that whenever you have an errand to attend to, hundreds of other folks have decided to do so at the exact same time. The bus system is overloaded even with specially-provided extra routes. Restaurants are on a consistent wait. And with the time spent in check-out lines, you should be able to bone-up on every celebrity scandal and miraculous-appearance-of-Jesus-in-toast from the past ten years.

All of which are minor complaints respective to the claustrophobia imparted by the ArtPrize proper visitors. The venues can be so stifling, it’s absolutely anxiety-producing. Even the outdoor installations can be so surrounded that the horde is impassable. I mentioned the experience of feeling physically separated from my stroller, an altogether not unusual experience in an environment of such extreme population density.

But, I could really get past the presence of all the new people, if they weren’t “those” people. Ugh. Art can bring out all sorts of people, families, spectators. It is known, however, for attracting a certain set. Those folks with their air of superiority. Free-trade-coffee-carrying, hand-dyed-scarf-wearing, bobbed-gray-hair-rocking, haughty-gazed, supercilious “art folks.” The judges and jurors with their perplexing critical favorites. The tourists with their imperious make-believe grasp of bewildering artist statements. And, especially, the artists themselves; with their unrealistic and arrogant view of the significance of their work and the correspondingly-expected promise of the respect it should garner.

For example: yesterday, Duck and I explored several more venues including our traditional riverside route. Outside of the Gerald Ford Museum was a musical art installation. It was essentially a large-ring xylophone or glockenspiel, if you will. The observer was invited to take a hammer-mallet-thing and hit the metallic bars as they ran around the ring. In doing so, you would produce the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Of course, as Ducky witnessed several people perform the melodious route, she clamored for a turn. We got in line. We waited. She picked up a hammer-mallet-thing and approached the installation- instrument. And, the artist came over, took her hammer-mallet-thingy away, and advised me that it was not a device for toddlers. Inevitably, Duckers started throwing a fit. The artist told me he was making a sign to that effect, but it simply wasn’t meant for the younger-than-ten-crowd. Usually, I can respect the requests people make of me as the parent of a toddler. You want to enjoy your dinner at a restaurant? We try to keep her quiet and entertained. You want to watch that movie? We won’t bring her to the theater until we can reasonably expect her to behave. You want to hear the gospel? Churches have actually have a kid-friendly room, just for us. But, there is a point at which I am no longer expected to make your life conveniently free of my hip-high nuisance. You, sir, are an asshole. You created a large-scale, outdoor installation in a park. That installation is essentially a giant, interactive, musical instrument. That instrument plays a childhood-favorite, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Yes, I can totally see how it was not meant for toddlers. (I’m looking at you, Tom Kaufmann, dumbass creator of the Music Go-Round).

This is only one instance of a pervading pretentiousness that shadows the ArtPrize experience. While I tore my screaming child away, I’d wager that I received only a couple of sympathetic glances. The rest of the spectators assumed condescending shrugs of disapproval. Of my child’s behavior. Of my inability to control her in such an preeminent and ostentatious environment. The ArtPrize habitat breeds highfalutinry. Almost every piece includes “DO NOT TOUCH” signage, if not blatant barriers. Even the 3-D installations. Made of unique materials. Outside. So, what you’re saying is: the elements can wreak havoc on it and birds can crap on it, but my two-year old can’t touch it? Well, that’s dumb. Just dumb.

Art is a sensory experience. Oftentimes, the experience could be enhanced if you would just let us “see” your piece, in every sense. I understand that you fear damage, but let’s assume that the crowd you hope to attract is respectful and avoids making any mistakes. I’m not suggesting you subject your beautiful canvas to the whims of the masses. I’m simply suggesting that your large, outdoor, indestructible, metal dragon should be enjoyed, photographed and, well, fondled if your audience chooses to do so.

Your audience. Because that’s what is too often forgotten by the artsy-fartsy. ArtPrize is for everyone. It is designed as a social experience that includes the entire public. The appeal of the event is inherent in the idea that popular opinion matters and that art isn’t just served to us by the critical elite, to be digested as directed. ArtPrize is a great event… But the highfalutinry has got to go.

Lest I give you the impression that the event is nonetheless anything but enjoyable overall, a few more favorites from yesterday:

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Birch Grove by Judy A. Steiner can be seen at the Courtyard Marriott

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The Wind by Gil Bruvel at the Grand Rapids Public Museum

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Further proof that ArtPrize is fun… For everyone.

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Rave: Whitecaps Baseball

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME!

The Detroit Tigers are in the post-season! I love baseball. On almost any given day, from April to October, you can catch a Tigers’ game on the radio. Baseball is the easiest game to follow without actually watching, thus making the activity far more portable. Weekends on the lake, weekends camping, nothing is complete without some Tiger Baseball in the background.

And, we love some Tiger Baseball! Growing up, it was an integral part of summer. My bachelorette party was held at a game. When we lived in Royal Oak, before our move to GR, we were mere minutes from Comerica park. Our first date as parents was to a spring game. Duck’s first months coincided with baseball season, I have fond memories of listening to games whilst snuggling with my new babe. Beer Bear’s very own doppelgänger is a former Tiger, Magglio Ordoñez. (For real, the resemblance is so uncanny, it inspired a radio-show contest).

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It has been a sad fact that, since moving to West Michigan, we haven’t been to a single game. That said, we have had the opportunity to support our local team, the West Michigan Whitecaps. It has been great. They are a minor-league team for the Tigers, so we maintain franchise affiliation. Further, the tickets are cheaper, the venue is smaller, and the entire event is a family-oriented affair.

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Last year, we took Ducky to her first baseball game ever. It was relatively inexpensive at $10 for two adult lawn seats. The ballpark was easily navigated, even with a wobbly toddler, and there were no restrictions in what you could bring in. (Ok, no outside alcohol, but we’ve been to stadiums that limit the size of your purse. Hard to haul all you need in a diaper bag then). Throughout the inning breaks, there was constant activity for the kids. Races, games, mascot fun. Afterward, we enjoyed a great fireworks display.

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This season, we attended a couple of themed-games. First, Running Bear joined Duck and I for Star Wars Night. In addition to the regular fun, we met with several intergalactic fellows. Duckers also got her very own light saber. And, she fell in love with the mascots. And, of course, another fireworks finale.

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#hansolohomerun #inagalaxyfarfarawaygame #usetheforceout #theempirestrikesout

Some weeks later, I took Duck to a special mom-daughter date: Princess night. Oh. My. God. It was awesome. The ballpark was positively filled with princesses! Little girls came in their royal finery, several Disney princesses roamed the concessions, we received tiaras and wands at the door. They offered “fantasy” photos complete with dress-up clothes and exotic backdrops. A cosmetics and hairdressing team was performing makeovers. And, fireworks.

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#takemeouttotheballroomgame #partofyourworldseries #letitgowhitecaps #iwalkedwithyouonceuponadream

I am so thankful to have a great local option for some family fun, franks, and fireworks. We are looking forward to getting to know our other minor league teams, the Grand Rapids Griffins and NBA-Development team, the Drive.

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Rave: ARTPRIZE

It’s that time again here in Grand Rapids! Art Prize!

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One of my early 2014 favorites found at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, Bio Interloper by Crystal Wagner

Ok. There are literally hordes of visitors. Expect to find the buses, hotels, stores, streets running amok with people. Weekend trips downtown can be positively overwhelming.

But… The art. The experience. It’s absolutely unique. The city is littered with installations, paintings, sculptures, performances, and more. I don’t consider myself highbrow, cultured, or any other form of pompous windbaggery. I just enjoy a good wander. And so, with innumerable sights and destinations, Art Prize is the highlight of the Grand Rapids calendar.

I cannot recommend this weeks-long event enough.

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Some favorites from previous years.

So, here’s the deal:
Essentially, hundreds of artists make agreements with local venues to display art installations during a three-week period. These installations can be anything from traditional sculpture and painting to contemporary performance and interactive pieces. The venues can be anywhere: restaurants, stores, hotels, parks, museums, the river. Anywhere. When the event begins, visitors become voters. Registering is easily done with the Art Prize smartphone app. Simply download and activate once you’re in the “grid” downtown GR. Each work of art is numbered with a five-digit code. Vote throughout the event for your favorite pieces. At the end, the winning artist is awarded a $200,000 prize. There are also prizes awarded to semi-finalists and special prizes awarded by the “jury” of proper critics. But, the coolest part for me is that we participate in the decision of “what makes great art.”

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Another 2014 favorite, The Chimes They Are A Changin by Jenny Heissenhuber, on Oakes Street

In my experience, a couple things might make your experience a little easier:
1. The weekends are very, very busy. Some of the venues are practically sardine-cans. I suggest avoiding the popular venues on the weekends. The BOB, the museums, the Meijer Gardens to name a few. If you can, plan your visit during the week when you can have more time and space to yourself.
2. Moms and Dads of young kids: the above suggestion applies to you even more so. The first time we went, I felt my stroller being pulled in a different direction, simply as a matter of the crowd. It was terrifying for me. If you must attend during one of the overcrowded times, consider baby-wearing or using a leash. I know, I know. A leash? But, think of it as a third hand on your kiddo. Not a creepy restraint.
3. Another feature they offer that tends to make things easier: our local bus service, the Rapid, offers free rides to anyone who purchases the Art Prize armbands. For $5, you get 2 armbands so you and a guest can ride the buses fare-free during the event. With our award-winning bus system, you can park outside the hubbub and get a free ride in or out.
4. When possible, use the mobile app to register and vote. It’s much easier than going online or waiting in line at one of the registration sites. The only downside is that you would have to pay $2 to get the official map and guide, but I haven’t found it incredibly helpful yet anyway.
5. Divide your time and space. There is simply no way to see it all. But, you can get more out of your time if you divide the venues geographically. If you want to see the “must-see” venues, you will need to go to the GRAM, the KCAD, the UICA, the BOB, the GRPM,and the Gerald Ford. All those abbreviations aside, we have found our favorites in previous years in other locales. You can create an experience of your own. My family prefers the outdoor pieces, so we spend more of our time exploring the streets and parks. In fact, I’ve never seen the winning pieces before they were announced because we haven’t bothered to go in many of the major venues.
6. Bring refreshments. Water, snacks, etc. It’s a lot of walking. And, these early weeks of fall can be deceptively warm. Especially on the city streets. It’s not as though refreshments aren’t available on every street corner, but save some money for a proper meal and bring snacks and drinks for your meandering.
7. Speaking of proper meals, plan to eat during your tour. Grand Rapids is home to great restaurants and breweries that double as venues during the event. Stop in to Stella’s Lounge for a burger, San Chez Bistro for Tapas, Founder’s Brewery for a beer. Eat, drink, be merry.

Check out the Art Prize website for a more thorough look at the event.

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An entry of my own. Duck in the Wild. Obvi.

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Summer Summary, Part 2

So… After a (very) brief respite at home, Duck and I traveled back out to the east-side.

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Ducks. Duh.

The first day, we went to the Fowlerville Fair. It’s a pretty typical county fair with a carnival, midway, etc. It’s always a great choice for us because they have a giant 4-H area devoted to livestock. And, you may know, we can’t pass on “aminals.” It was pretty fun chasing Duckers through tents of horses, cows, pigs, rabbits, fowl, and more. We must have heard her croon “Old MacDonald” about a thousand times. She sure loves her “aminals.” We arrived to the Fair prior to the games and rides opening, but, fortunately, the face-painter was available.

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A face tattoo. I’m so proud. #miketyson

That weekend, we also celebrated Running Bear’s 30th birthday. She had a pretty fabulous party with a Pure Michigan theme. (Whoever threw that party must be pretty amazing). The venue (just some guy’s house) had a trampoline. Of course, Ducky could be found there at any given time throughout the party. She was a jumping machine… not that this led to a reasonable bedtime or anything. (I swear, she’s secretly mainlining caffeine when we aren’t looking or something). I really hope Running Bear had a great time and felt the celebration and love. Only kidding. I know she did. She told me. Over. And over. And over. Before she passed out on the stoop. Chug-a-lug, Running Bear. Chug-a-lug.

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Pure Michigan is all about consumerism.

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Da Bears. (Some of us, ahem, in our Pure Michigan-themed costumes. See if you can find Aretha Franklin, Madonna, and Ted Nugent. Anyone else was a spoilsport.

After a little more boating and fishing and lake time, we hauled back to GR with my ex-pat sister, Hermana Bear, and my brother-in-law, Bear Más Exotico. We packed up the camper and trekked to another nearby campground, Hungry Horse in Dorr, MI. It was a beautiful couple days for camping. The campground was pretty similar to the KOA I mentioned earlier, here. Pool, games, camp store, etc. It was more woodsy at Hungry Horse. Pros: felt more like traditional camping, allowed for more privacy, better scenery, better hiking. Cons: bugs, bugs, bugs. (I will update with a complete review of the campground soon).

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Those are designated camping jammies. They are pretty incredible.

A couple days camping and then a 5-hour drive to Harrisville on northern Lake Huron for our annual family reunion (and birthplace of the bear pack!) Again, we enjoyed great weather, great company, and great food as we played waterside over the weekend.

Return to Grand Rapids for a couple busy days of preparations: shopping, packing, etc. for the following weekend: our very first GAGME. Yes, we bears decided to begin our own traveling, family reunion. GAG being “Garbers’ Annual Gathering.” We will change the meaning to ME correspondingly with our destination. This trip, ME referred to a “Monumental Event” as we invaded Washington DC. It. Was. Awesome. I promise to write an entry dedicated to our experience. I loved DC. I loved our “gathering.” I had a great time and hope we will keep the new tradition alive next year with a new destination and a new ME.

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Note the fabulous matching t-shirts? Boom.

Oh, yeah, we drove. Ugh. So, after a 10-hour trip back to Michigan, we swung through Lansing to pick up Beer Bear’s sister. She flew into town to spend a week with us from her home in Florida. It was a pretty great week. She love Duckers and definitely took the lead with her, a nice reprieve from almost constant parenting. Beer Bear and I even went on a date downtown! (I hope to offer some personal dining and exploring reviews of our great downtown in a future post).

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Date night = rationalizing name for event where parents can drink sans judgement.

We also went to Boulder Ridge Animal Safari in Alto during Sunny Bear’s stay with us. It is, by far, the best thing I have done since we moved out to West Michigan. I will “RAVE” about it soon because it was fabulous. It is incredibly interactive and is a great environment to engage with exotic and domestic animals. Or, “aminals.” Whatever.

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What did you do today? Oh, that’s nice. Me? I pet a kangaroo.

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I just liked this photo. Time to get a DSLR! (Only kidding).

Finally, after Sunny Bear’s departure, Beer Bear, Duckers, and I hauled out to Grand Haven for a proper beach day. The weather was cool and cloudy, but that was to our advantage because the crowds were slim. We had a nice day in the sand and a nice lunch in town.

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Sand? Sand. Sand! SAND! SAAAAAAAAAAAAAND!!! (It’s everywhere).

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Now, we are home again. And, I am worn out. Completely. Of course, Ducky is just staring at me with a suggestive gleam: “What are we going to do next, mom?!?”

Die. Probably die.

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Summer Summary, Part 1

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I. Am. Exhausted.

My sister and brother-in-law arrived just over a month ago from Spain. They flew into Chicago and rode the mega-bus into Grand Rapids. It was relatively cheap transportation and afforded the option for an initial arrival in Chicago, which tends to be a less-expensive option than Detroit in international flights. We spent a couple of “relaxed” days in Grand Rapids. The only notable event was a minor brewery exploration downtown as we introduced them to Founders’ Taproom and Hopcat Brewery: a pair of proper, Beer City institutions that shouldn’t be missed.

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Having a drink and a reunion at Founders’.

The weekend following their arrival, we headed to Dundee, home to the “other” Cabelas. We enjoyed a great groupon deal for a hotel-stay and passes to a waterpark. It was fun, but Duckers was pretty intimidated by the constant spraying and dump buckets. She did figure out the lazy river pretty quickly. (Fortunate; since I discovered that I hate water slides). We also wandered to downtown Dundee which was pretty cute and offered a fabulous Mexican meal. (Also, fortunate; good food and one-dollar margaritas? Yes, please).

We then trekked to my parents’ home, north of Ann Arbor. They live on a lake and it gets plenty of use throughout the summer months. This weekend, of course, centered on family and we visited and played with the bearpack. We paid a visit to my nonna, who lives in an home for the elderly in a memory-care unit. My nonna suffers from dementia. She is in pretty amazing physical health for her age, but it has been years since she recognized me as her granddaughter. This visit, in particular, stood out as another stage in her mental decline as she readily switched between English, Italian, and gibberish. Our previous visit to see her was in the spring and, while her faculties were not intact by any means, she seemed considerably better at the time. Even so, she always seems happy to see us and the duck is always a nice treat for the residents. She is no longer the Nonnie I grew up with, but she is my only surviving grandparent. She is one of Ducky’s only two great-grandparents. (Her great-grandfather is 97(!) and still living in the Phillipines). The legacy alone is important to me but I also cherish the simple moments of proximity. Some people seem to have a healing touch, even if they don’t (or can’t) know it.

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A view from the original den.

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Four generations of hands. Or bear paws. Whatever.

We also swung by the Plymouth Art Festival. It was a pretty great turnout of vendors and had far better prices than the neighboring Ann Arbor Art Festival. We scooped up another Tony from MrSogs: a stuffed monster and one of my favorites in Ducky’s immense toy menagerie. This Tony Rex joins perennial favorites, Tony Tony and Tony Mac. I also found some cool pottery and a lawn tchotchke. Add my unique finds to some good food and good company and it made for a pretty swell day.

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Tony Mac, Tony Rex, Tony Tony, and Penguin. Check out MrSogs on etsy.

Onto a couple of days back in GR and readying myself for our impending girls’ trip. I wanted to spend some special time with my little girly, so we spent some time at the library and the park and the mall… and, maybe, at the ice cream shoppe. We also discovered geocaching (which I will discuss more in a later post). It’s been a pretty great activity and has added a little more adventure to our walks and hikes.

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Special time before I abandoned her to her dad. (Bwahaha).

On Friday, I got on a plane (in itself, a minor miracle) with my mom and sisters. We had a FABULOUS weekend in NYC. I had never been before and I found the city simultaneously overwhelming and underwhelming. No celebrity sightings. No green space. Times Square was smaller than I imagined. Sooooo many people. Surprisingly little diversity in said-people. Of course, our stay was super short and limited us to Manhattan (with a brief jaunt to Staten Island and Brooklyn). We did the major sites. (My favorite was the Statue). We did some shopping. We corpsed. (It’s a thing). I hope to write a full post about the trip soon. Altogether, I had a wonderful time and a ridiculous amount of fun. Even though New York wasn’t my cup o’ tea, my company was fantastic! The bearpack definitely took a bite out of the Big Apple. Of course, I missed Beer Bear and my duck. A (thankfully) brief flight to Detroit and a quick (likely, illegally-so) drive to GR and I was home. If only temporarily…

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Gotham bears.

(Hey, I said it was exhausting. More soon. Stay tuned).

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Happy Campering and (Surprise) Rave: Allendale KOA

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Where have I been? Well, unlike many folks, summer is my busy season. While other parents relish in the relative calm that ensues post-school-sports-dance-etc., I have a toddler. In Michigan. A state coming off its worst winter in my lifetime. Thus, we are outside. All. The. Time.

Playground. Hiking. Beach. Splash pad. Backyard. Front yard. And repeat. It’s exhausting. I actually look forward to rainy days so I can laze on the couch guilt-free. My dad once told me that fresh air was a guaranteed method to wipe-out kids. Lies. My child feeds off the outdoors. Seriously. Her energy level is practically exponential lately: in that it feeds off itself. Literally, she seems to gain battery-power as a result of expending battery-power. She can run circles around me. It’s a very vicious cycle. So, we are outside. More space = more chase, but I’m dwelling on the memory of this past winter and the equally exhausting but still completely different fuel for frustration. Hey, I’ve lost ten pounds in the Duck-marathon, so there’s that.

We not only enjoy daily adventures outside, we are happy campers. Give me a tent, some firewood, some ‘mallows, a percolator, and excessive amounts of beer. We will have fun. I have always preferred a pretty primitive approach to camping: tent and inevitable argument whilst erecting said-tent. (“That’s not where that goes.” “I KNOW WHERE IT GOES!”) Pit-pots/ vault toilets. There’s nothing like the smell of disinfectant and the fear that a black widow spider is going to bite you on the keester. Hand-pumped well water. The coldest, freshest water ever. And, the resulting bicep-tricep muscle soreness. And, finding the elusive balance between pumping up-and-down and being able to release and hold the bucket under the spigot to catch the quickly-waning spray before having to resort to pumping again. Finally, a very flexible approach to bathing, hygiene, and washing of any kind. A quick whore’s bath in the lake or river? Yes, please. Ah, the joys of rustic camping.

Well, until now. Remember when I attested to the fact that I am not spoiled? I lied. My aunt (the bestest, most awesomest, wonderfullest, absolutely fabulousest person ever), gave us her camper. She and my uncle were looking to upgrade and upsize. They found a new camper but rather than selling or trading their old one, generously decided to share it with us, thinking that we might enjoy it; a value more than the monetary one they could reap from the sale. Because we are cool campers. And spoiled rotten. And incredibly grateful.

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Check out that awesome camper, yeah!!!

Turns out: I hate sleeping on the ground in a cold and damp tent with a toddler’s feet in my face. I would much rather be in a bed in an insulated camper with a toddler’s feet in my face. (Even at home, the feet-in-face is non-negotiable). I also like electricity. I am ashamed to admit this. I always “poo-poohed” people and their “luxuries” while camping. How is it camping??? But, it’s nice to have a fan. And lights. And a fridge. And a charger. And properly running water??? A toilet. And a sink. And clean dishes. And hand-washing. And even a hot shower. I draw the line at cable hook-ups and wi-fi, but you get the picture: Bring on the amenities!!

So, we are outside this summer. And, we are enjoying our wonderful gift from my aunt, Baby Grizzly Bear and my uncle, Larr-Bear. (They are some damn great bears). Part of our adventure has been putting our stamp on the new-to-us camper. It is an older model Sunline Travel Trailer. Fortunately, my aunt and uncle have maintained the crap out of it, so it’s in excellent shape. Not requiring any kind of investment in the trailer itself, freed up a bit of a budget to make some personal modifications then. Here are some After pictures of the exterior of the camper, appropriately dubbed: The Den… Get it???

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We spent a couple weeks on our updates before taking The Den on an inaugural camp for Fourth of July weekend. Beer Bear had to work during the day, so we just ended up camping at a KOA site about 20 minutes from Grand Rapids in Allendale. My previous opinion of KOA campgrounds was disagreeable: canned-sardine sites, no tree cover, no quiet, too many features. While some of that remains true, I am not so superior as to overlook the conveniences a campground like this can offer: an on-site camp store, electricity and water taps, a game room, putt-putt golf, showers, a pool, fishing, horseshoes, tetherball, a baseball diamond, ladderball, playgrounds, a dog run, hayrides, even a dunk tank. Many, many activities to busy a toddler. I remain loyal to rustic-camping (in a camper now, of course), but we did use some of the available amenities during our KOA stay. And, I would recommend the Allendale campground, just a short jaunt from downtown GR.

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I look forward to completing some more projects that I have in mind for the den. Ugh, my Pinterest page is inundated. (Once completed, I will update Before and After photos of the interior). We also have another couple nearby camps planned for this summer.

My sister from Spain is also due to arrive in Michigan for the summer soon. We have a waterpark weekend planned. I also have a girls’ trip to NYC planned in a couple weeks. We also have a family vacation planned for DC a little after that. We also have our annual reunion Up North. We also have daily excursions to the local parks, farms, beaches, markets, playgrounds, libraries, etc.

I’m so tired. No wonder bears hibernate through winter. Sheesh.

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Rave: Standale Memorial Day Parade

Memorial Day! The unofficial beginning of summer! And, there’s nothing like a Michigan summer. Michiganders approach summer with incomparable zeal; after our winter(s), it’s a justified course of action.

Michigan loves water. Double the peninsula, double the fun. In fact, in my family, if you aren’t in the water on/by Memorial Day, it’s grounds for familial abandonment. It doesn’t matter if the water is cold. Get. In. It. Many Michiganders flocked to the Great Lakes’ shores to celebrate. We opted to avoid the inevitable mayhem and traffic and stuck around Grand Rapids.

Beer Bear and I hauled the Duck to the local beach at Millennium Park for some sun, sand, and swimming fun. Millennium Park is one of the Kent County parks and offers a small beach area with concessions, boat rentals, and a splash pad. The park is peppered with trails and boardwalks that interconnect with our local trail network. I recently discovered a union of trails that link throughout our area. I’m definitely looking forward to exploring them! One of the trailheads is right near our home! Check out the trail map here.

Last year, our Duck could not handle the sand. She hated it. Haaaaaaaated it. She seems to have gotten past that aversion…

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We had a great time and I highly recommend Millennium Park as a great, local day for the family. We have been there many times and it has never been very busy. A definite bonus when trying to wrangle an energetic toddler!

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We continued our summer celebrations with backyard games, barbecuing, bonfiring, and beer.

It was great.

While we enjoy the long-weekend as a commencement of the summer festivities, we cannot forget the reason we observe the holiday.

To that end, we went to our Standale/Walker Memorial Day Parade. And, it was fabulous! First, it was within easy walking-distance of our home. Second, it began at a completely-reasonable noon, meaning we could sleep in and enjoy a leisurely morning. We had missed it in previous years, as we had gone camping for the weekend. I’m so glad we were able to attend.

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The parade began with a flyover. I’m constantly awestruck by the talent and bravery of pilots. Their technical abilities aside, they flaunt their bravery not only in the face of an enemy but also in opposition to the preeminent force of gravity. In general, I think soldiering is a special calling. Additionally, I think piloting takes instinct and abandon. Many, many thanks to our gals and guys in the skies!

The floats rode by shortly after the flyover. Veterans from several wars were represented. Active duty personnel were on hand. Junior Marines and Junior ROTC members walked. Walker is home to an army reserve base; so family members and the community at large really turned up en masse. It was a spectacular show of appreciation and overwhelming patriotic pride.

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As a parent, Memorial Day is an incredibly important lesson in gratitude. As every veteran’s float passed, we reinforced the idea that we needed to thank them. I’m not sure how much comprehension she is really capable of, but we did get Duckers to quack some “thank-yous” as soldiers rolled by.

My only complaint, and it can be applied universally to these parades, is the politics. Ugh. I hate the inappropriate piggy-backing of an election year. Candidates posing for photo ops with men and women in uniform. It just seems so disingenuous.

It is with great appreciation that we thank the brave men and women who have and do keep our land free.

We thank the men and women who have given their lives in order to gain and uphold the freedoms of this great nation. These fallen heroes deserve enormous and sincerest thanks for their sacrifices for our protections.

We thank the men and women who continue to serve in order to maintain our liberty. An enviable courage exists in every man and every woman who dons the uniform of red, white, and blue.

We thank the mother, fathers, husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, friends who await homecomings with pride and worry. Those who live difficult and unconventional lives in order to support our freedoms vicariously.

We thank the many loved ones who have been left in grief to return home with only folded-flags.

God bless you all. ‘Merica.
With immeasurable love and gratitude, The Bear Pack

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