While our family’s trip to Europe was the highlight of the summer, it wasn’t the only thing we did (even though it took months to blog all the details). We kept busy throughout July, and it’s only now that we’re coming up on the end of August, and a new school year, that I feel things have slowed down. Whenever anyone complains they’re bored, I just remind them of everything we’ve already done, which is more than what some of their ancestors did in their entire lifetimes, and do not allow myself to feel guilty at all. Grab your tablet for an hour or two! I don’t care for the remainder of the summer!
But none of it is official unless it’s blog official so I thought I’d hit some of the other highlights from this summer.
Camping In the Adirondacks
The John Dillon Park bills itself as the only fully ADA compliant wilderness campground in the Adirondacks. I’d learned of it years ago and Tony and I have wanted to make a family trip there, but could never nail down a time. To be honest, this summer was not really the time either, but last February when we were in Upstate New York, Tony’s brother got the idea to arrange a family camping trip in the Adirondacks for relatives on that side of the family and immediately started planning. A Europe trip was on my radar, but since we hadn’t nailed down any dates, we agreed with his plans as they progressed. Fast forward to this summer. We were back from our overseas adventure for a week and a half before packing up again for some wilderness camping.
Most of Tony’s family would be staying in cabins near by, but we weren’t able to find a wheelchair accessible cabin, so we decided we’d finally pay a visit to John Dillon Park. For the record, I love camping, even rustic camping. For our third wedding anniversary Tony and I spent a long weekend in a small cabin in the Adirondacks with no electricity or running water and both loved it. But camping as a family of seven, two of whom have physical disabilities, is hard and so not something we’d done for more than one night since 2010 when I was pregnant with Teddy.
First and foremost, the John Dillon welcome center sits down a 2 mile gravel road. Considering we travel in a large van with wheelchair lift that mounts underneath underneath, bumping up and down a gravel road didn’t seem very ADA friendly. In checking, I see this fact is mentioned on the park’s website but we’d somehow missed this information before our trip and therefore were constantly worried about damage to our lift. We did have trouble during our trip, but thankfully nothing we couldn’t fix on our own.
Once in the park and checked in, we had to hike to our camp site. The staff did help us take our gear to the site with their ATV. The trails were gravel, but tightly packed so the boys didn’t have trouble driving on them. Our site had a lean-to with a ramp, a picnic table and access to an outhouse with a composting toilet that was shared with a neighboring lean-to. We also set up a large tent on our site for the older three. The lean-to had one bed platform, and we set up a cot, and a queen sized air mattress. We were given small, quiet generators to power Fulton’s medical equipment over night and recharge the boys’ powerchairs.
Unfortunately due to severe flooding in the weeks prior to our arrival, the water level was too high to use the fishing pier or access the dock that would allow the boys to get onto the park’s accessible pontoon boat. We did do some other hiking around the park, but ultimately wound up spending more time with family at their cabins, one of which the boys could drive into with the use of our portable ramp (though it wouldn’t have been accessible enough for us to sleep there).
One of the more challenging parts was all our water needed to be carried in from the welcome center, and the outhouse, though large enough for a wheelchair user to drive into and transfer, had a composting toilet that was too wide to accommodate the boys toilet chair which we usually can roll over top of a standard toilet.
Sleeping and keeping the boys comfortable at night was also a challenge, and on our last night it poured rain and the rain fly on our tent failed soaking the older three. It was just hard. And having just had a fun, but physically taxing time in Europe, we were all just tired of travel and trying to make do in new environments. We did enjoy seeing family, playing board games, and thankfully we found a new fishing location for the boys. Addie and Byron did whitewater rafting and we did eat some tasty s’mores, but I think we’re good on family camping trips for another 10+ years; though I’d still happily retreat to a quiet cabin for a week alone with Tony if given the chance.
A Belated Nativity of St. John the Baptist Party
Even though we spent the actual feast day with St. John the Baptist, we couldn’t not have a party, but with everything else going on, I sort of forgot about it until we got back from our camping trip and realized it was in three days. We didn’t have fireworks for the first time in a long while but thankfully everything else went well. It was our smallest turnout to date with only 60 people but I was honestly relieved. Hopefully next year the weeks leading up to the party will be less hectic than the two years prior and I can throw myself into planning with more joy and gusto.
I was feeling sorry for myself because despite the fact that we’d gone to freaking Europe I was sad we hadn’t gone to the beach at all. Looking back, I’m so glad I went as much as I did when the kids were younger (almost to the point of them getting sick of going) since it’s so challenging to go now. But, I decided if I wanted to go to the beach, I was going to make it happen – come hell or high water!- and so I picked a day knowing Tony’s couldn’t take time off work and I’d be going solo with the kids.
It wound up being a great day; 4+ hours on the beach! I got both boys in the ocean with the Mobi-Chair and we ate pizza, fries, and candy plus a ton of snacks I bought just for the occasion. We also got to visit with family and friends who were also in town and who stopped by our umbrella to catch up. It was physically challenging at times, but having all the older kids with me (plus Addie’s boyfriend) made lugging all our gear and doing transfers easier. We’ll head back once more before school starts for Fulton and Teddy to visit the boardwalk and get in a few arcade games, and then I’ll probably take a solo trip once they’re in school just to lay in the sand and listen to the ocean.
Back to College
MDA Camp wrapped up (along with some Mama Papa time in Atlantic City) just in time to pack Addie up for Cleveland. She’s going to be a senior!!! And she’s probably not moving back to NJ in the foreseeable future. She’s majoring in social work and has an internship lined up that will turn into full-time employment upon graduation. At this point, she’s also thinking she’ll go right on to get her masters degree in social work too, which she can also get at Cleveland State. So while we hope to see her at Christmas, and maybe for a week or two over the summer, her new apartment will be her home going forward. She’s even getting an Ohio driver’s license in the next month. It’s a weird feeling, but honestly it was harder for me when she left for her first year in Cleveland.
Byron heads back on Saturday and the school starts for him, Addie and Edie that Monday. I do feel like we had a good summer as a family; it was almost too much togetherness! But with everyone getting older and spending less time here, I’m glad we had the chance to make so many wonderful memories together.