Labor Day

Labor Day.

I for one have never been around any sort of Labor Day celebration, parade, or other official festivity. For most Americans it is the last push of taking in the bounty of summer before school starts (or for those of us for whom school has already started, it is for giving summer one last embrace before we kiss it good-bye). Grill-outs, a day at the lake, camping--all typical Labor Day activities. Enjoy the sun, outdoors, and friends and family.

Because of the heat last week, school was cancelled Thursday and Friday. A veritable five-day weekend. Normally, I would pack the car and tell the family we're going camping. But I dislike sleeping in stifling heat, so I didn't even bring it up.

Over the weekend we got a fair amount of projects done around the house. It cooled off a bit--good bike riding weather, not so much for swimming in a lake. We had a great evening with friends old and new.

Today we got out of town and did a day trip we'd been meaning to do all summer. Well, not right away. We have friends who live on the route of an annual 10k/5k race. Usually a few friends from church and school run in it, and several families gather together in front of our friends' home to cheer on the runners, eat some breakfast, and enjoy hanging out together. My wife ran there in the morning while the rest of us were still in bed. I made a picnic lunch while waiting for our youngest to rise from his slumber. We all finally made it there after the race was over and hung out for a little while.

Then we hit the road.

The first stop was Franconia Sculpture Park, about 45 minutes northwest of the Twin Cities. It's a lovely drive getting there on Highway 8 which takes you through a series of small, lakeside towns that were settled by Scandinavian immigrants. The sculpture garden is a wonderful outdoor interactive art arena. Artists reside in a large white farm house in the park, and you may occasionally see them working on a sculpture in the work areas.

I'm not sure how often they switch out exhibits, but there were several new ones from last year along with old favorites. Despite the admonition at the information shack not to climb on the sculptures, several obviously beg for interaction. The boys love to climb there. A couple are basically large scrap-metal playgrounds, and they're built that way--with swings and slides and steps. They beg to be climbed on.

And there are some sculptures that obviously aren't supposed to be climbed on (and the little signs posted around them help make this clear). It's one of those places that encourages you to stay together as a family. At least so that parents can notify children when those signs are present.

After a mid-afternoon lunch break, we drove a few more miles down the road to Interstate State Park on the edge of Taylors Falls. We have never camped there, but we've stopped on a few occasions at their visitor's center. Well, not the visitor's center per se, but the trails right next to it that take you through a glacial potholes park.

The trails invite exploration. Rocks to climb, potholes to sink into, beautiful views of the St. Croix River and Wisconsin across it. It's not for the "helicopter parent," though; it would certainly produce a brain embolism or some such disastrous outcome for such a person. Deep drop offs, sharp edges, riverside cliffs, pathway hazards to stumble over; it's not a safe place. But it's a lot of fun. With proper boundaries (and the occasional "okay, not THAT close to the edge") the boys love to climb and crawl and explore.

Did I mention it's all outdoors? Added bonus.

The boys got a frosty root beer float at the local drive in (appropriately called "The Drive-In") while my wife responded to a text from a friend wondering if they could come over for a bonfire. I totally appreciate people willing to either 1) set up a playdate with my children since I'm terrible at doing that and 2) invite themselves over to our home whether it's for a bonfire, supper together, or even to use the guest room if they're coming through from out of town. (Of course, we reserve the right to say "no" if our family schedule doesn't permit, but, hey, it doesn't hurt to ask.)

Our road trip was conveniently drawing to an end, so we headed back home (thankfully traffic wasn't what I expected it might be on Labor Day evening). And thankfully, our friends had some hot dogs to pair with the hot dog buns we had. The kids played; the adults sat and talked. Hot dogs roasted; the fire blazed. Ahhh.

And so the long weekend has come to a close. Week two of school promises to be cooler. We're sliding back into our routines (the boys have been doing fairly well at getting to sleep--hooray!). We're readjusting to the busy schedule. Fall is around the corner. Sigh.

I will miss summer: swimming in lakes, gardening, time outside.

But autumn holds it's own beauty: cooler weather for bicycling, hikes through woods where leaves are changing, evening bonfires.

I grateful for this one last day to just enjoy the blessings of summer. Even if we did have to wear long sleeves most of the day.

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