Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Parking Lot Game

Copper Harbor gets lots of visitors in the summer time.  The town gets crazy packed, and people are driving around everywhere.  They are parked everywhere too.

When I walk behind a line of parked cars, I like to look at the license plates to see which states people are from.  Yesterday I saw an impressive spread of plates from all over the country parked in front of The Pines for lunch.  Not one Michigan plate that day.

Braeden likes to look at the vehicles as well.  But he is more obsessive.  Here is what it's like walking through a parking lot with Brady P.

"Eh!" he stretches his little arm out and points to the first car in the row.

"Red car," I say.

He points to the next one.

"Silver truck."

He points to the next.

"White van."

He points.

"Black Jeep."

Another point.

"Silver car."

And so on and so on until all the cars are out of sight.  Unless he runs behind the row to point to them all again.  Oy, that gets a little monotonous for me.

He'll do the same thing when cars drive by.

"Motorcycles!" I tell him.  "What does a motorcycle do?"

He holds his fists in front and bounces them up and down like he's driving a motorcycle while I make the baroom ba ba ba ba sound.  He giggles, so I can't help but giggle too.

He is smart.  He knows the colors and the types of vehicles, so sometimes I switch it up on him.

"Braeden, do you see a red truck?"

Often it's the next thing in view, but sometimes he'll have to turn around.

Boom.  He points to the red truck.  And the gray car, the blue car, the red Jeep, the gold van, the white camper, the other camper and so on.

Is this post boring you?  Well, think about how I feel when I have to name these things everywhere we go!  Ha ha.  Just teasing.  Like I said before, I love to promote the things he is curious about and help him learn.  

Maybe someday he will work at a car dealership.  He can go around and tell the people the color of each type of car in the lot!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Bike Park Babysitter

I am a mountain biker.

Let me rephrase that.

I love to mountain bike, but I struggle for the opportunities to do it.  My husband often travels for work, so that leaves me with little B-Man all to myself.  In the summer, all my friends are too busy to watch him, so if Grammy is gone, I don't get to hit the trails.

And I am okay with that.  This is just a phase of my life.  

But Aaron and a friend built a partial terrain park out at Trails End Campground -- the place we go to the garden.  So I actually get to ride my bike around and around while Brady P. does little boy things.

What would Brady P. find to to in  a terrain park?

Throwing rocks into puddles is his first choice.  The last time we were out, he had a nice puddle to work with.  I think this one held him for at least 45 minutes.

Watching his rock splash in the puddle

He takes his rock-throwing seriously.  Notice the follow-through.  Notice the stance.  Notice the focused gaze into the splash zone.

It's fortunate for both of us that he is occupied for so long with this because I get to play in the background of this picture on the jumps, teeter-totters, drops and pump track.

One of our other favorite things is when I come coasting over to check on him.  I make sure he sees me coming, then I scream, "Ahhhh!" and slam on my brakes just inches before I reach him.

He closes his eyes and makes a defensive scrunchy face while he listens to me skid closer.  Then he opens his eyes, laughs and signs "more."

When he wants to watch me take the jumps, he runs to the back of the park, climbs to the top of the hill and sits up top while I climb up and jump down, climb up and jump down.

I don't know if he likes to watch because I'm his mom or because he is interested in the actual stunts.  But we did take him to the bike races this weekend for the Bell's Beer Copper Harbor Trails Fest.

As a family, we marched up the Overflow trail to check out the downhill race.  This is where riders bomb down the crazy terrain.  Brady P. got to watch and clap for the racers as they whizzed by.

I don't think he enjoyed it as much as when he watches me, so I guess I'm part of the main attraction in his terrain park life.  

I am flattered.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Frisbee and a Picnic

While that soccer ball is always waiting in the yard for a swift kick, another item rests patiently in the grass close by.  

The frisbee.  

Who would get their two-year-old a frisbee?  Would you?

Well, I did not.  It happened by default.

Earlier this summer Braeden watched some kids playing in the Copper Harbor park.  One of the little girls came over and asked, "Braeden, do you want to come play with us?"

It was a precious moment for Mom.  My little boy was invited to join the group in the park for the first time.  Hooray!

They were all playing with a frisbee.  Braeden took his turn running after it and throwing it back to the kids.  They were having so much fun that I didn't even have to watch him like a hawk.  I got to chat with the other moms like a normal parent for once!

After the crowd scattered, we went back home.  Somehow we ended up with a frisbee.

This bright orange disc sat on my counter for a couple weeks.  Every time I saw it, I thought, "What are we going to do with a partially dog-chewed frisbee?"

One day it caught Brady P's eye.  "Eh!" he shouted pointing to the frisbee. 

"Do you want to play frisbee?" I asked him.

He put his hand on his head for a yes.

After a couple times throwing the frisbee in the yard, I realized that Brady P. was a frisbee-throwing machine.  He can throw it so well that adults can catch it.  And he loves throwing it so much, that we had to look up the sign for frisbee, so he can tell me when he wants to play.  It's definitely everyday.

I like it because it doesn't continue rolling into precarious places.

We'll play frisbee in the yard.  We'll bring it on our walks, so he can throw it, run after it, pick it up and throw it again (keeping the walk in motion).  He'll throw it in the bushes and I'll make him find it.  We'll bring it to parties, so he can show other kids how to play.

Brady P. sending it!

It always dawns on me how well he throws it when I watch other kids lob it, drop it or accidentally throw it backwards.  He's got good glide, aim and distance with that thing.  And he likes to practice different techniques.

Last weekend, we brought it to the U.P. Down Syndrome Association's summer picnic in Escanaba.  Yes, we drove 4 hours one way for a picnic, but those events are good for both of us.

So Braeden got to show the kids how to play frisbee.  His frisbee was so often in use that I wondered where it was half the time, but my heart smiled when I saw kids and parents tossing it around in a group.

It was a cool event.  The ice cream truck even came!  I have never seen a real live ice cream truck tinkling its music down the road, but there it was.  And the kids rushed right to it.

The ice cream truck!

Braeden was a big fan.  Okay, so was I.

I also enjoyed my time talking with the other parents.  It's a rare party that I get to attend where all the parents understand what I've been through with Braeden and even have their own heart-breaking, yet triumphant stories to share.  I believe it's healing for all parents of a child with unique needs and medical struggles to be able to share their stories and empathize.

After our hearts were warmed, I found the frisbee again.  Then we gave our good-bye hugs and drove back north.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Soccer Obsession

I try to pick up on the things that Braeden likes, so he can further explore them.  

He loved the horses in his books, so I took him to see horses.  Maybe he'll be a rancher someday.  He loved whacking sticks on various objects to hear the different sounds they make, so I made sure he had a couple types of drums around.  Maybe he'll be a drummer someday.

See what I mean?  The little things that a child expresses interest in may be their future career, so I try to let them all blossom.  Then they can choose later in life.

When we were in Arkansas last winter, Grammy and Grampy Wais sent Brady P. some cooler pajamas to wear on those hot nights.  One pair had four different kinds of sports balls all over them.  Each time he wore the pants, he would point to a soccer ball.

"Soccer ball," I told him.

He looked down his leg to find another one.  And another one.  And another one.

"Soccer ball.  Soccer ball.  Soccer ball," I repeated for each pointing.

I don't know if he liked the pattern of the soccer ball or what, but he never pointed to the baseball, football or basketball.  Ever.  And the soccer ball was incessant.

"Okay, Brady P.  I get it.  We'll get you a soccer ball," I told him.

So I bought my tiny son a soccer ball with the classic black and white pattern like the one on his pj pants.  Supposedly, my two-and-a-quarter year old son, who just learned to walk steadily a couple months prior, was going to learn how to kick a soccer ball.

When I put it in the cart, he gave me the owl face.  This face, where his eyes get big and his mouth turns into a little "o," means that he is the most excited he can be.

"Yes," I thought.  "He likes the soccer ball!"

Then we had to learn how to kick it.  

Brady P. had been chucking rocks and tossing balls for months before that, but never did we think about giving it a good kick.  Well, in soccer you're not supposed to use your hands, so it was time to learn how to kick.

I thought it would be a fun thing to do on a fresh Arkansas spring day.  But instead of having a kicking spree, I observed the workings of the neurological pathways of my child's brain.  Yes, it was a lesson in brain science right there in the driveway.

I told Brady P. to kick it.  To use his foot.  He knew what his foot was, but I watched as my words entered his ears.  I heard his wheels turning as he looked at his foot and the ball.  And I heard them spin as he tried to figure out how to move his foot toward the ball to make it move forward like I had demonstrated for him.

Wow.  That was a lot of processing for a little guy!

He didn't get it the first day.  Or the second.  Or the third.  But, for some reason, Brady P. was obsessed with the soccer ball.  When he saw it on the porch, he would point and shout, "Eh!"

So we tried and tried.

About a week later, he had it.  He could kick it, run after it and kick it again.  He could kick it with the right timing after I kicked it to him.  He was getting it!  Little Brady P., who pointed to a cartoon on his jammy pants, was kicking a soccer ball down the driveway.

I was so proud of him.

Once we got back to the Copper Country, and the weather warmed up a bit, we got the soccer ball out again.  He still loves that thing and enjoys working on his kicking skills.

Sprinting to the soccer ball

Look at him.  He even has the serious soccer face!

One evening, on our walk to throw rocks, we spotted a young man volleying a soccer ball to himself.  This guy was amazing.  He kicked it up, over his head, behind and side to side without letting it hit the ground.  Braeden plopped down in the middle of the road and watched him in awe.

Eventually the guy's ball hit the ground and rolled toward Brady P.  Brady P. stood up, ran after it and grabbed it in his arms.

"Can you kick it to the man?" I asked him.

He threw it to the man instead.  Perhaps he was massively humbled.

"He really liked watching you," I told the young man.

The man kicked it back to Braeden, and Braeden kicked it back to him.  After chatting a bit more, I noticed he had an accent.  Woah, what if that guy was a professional soccer player from a different country?

When Braeden got up to leave, he waved good-bye to the man.  "I think you made his day!" I told the man as we walked away.  "Thank you!"

"You're welcome!" he said as he waved to Braeden.  We should have gotten his autograph.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Berry Picker

Berry season in the Keweenaw is like no other berry season I have ever known.  It's not a tractor ride through the strawberry farm fields with the masses.  It's not filling buckets of lush raspberries from a tall domestic patch in a friend's yard.

It's all about timing, weather, solitude and knowing the best spots for "what-kind-of-berry-did-you-say?" wild berries.

Brady P. learned to pick thimbleberries this summer.  

What kind of berry?

(Stock photo from the internet)

They were pretty prolific this year.  The bilberries, my usual favorite to pick, took the year off, so thimbles it was.

No matter.  Braeden loved them.

One day, just as the season was ripening, Aaron, Braeden and I took a buggy ride through the campground to check their progress.  When we saw the pink jewels glistening in the evening sun, Aaron stopped the ATV, and we hopped off to pick a few.  That's when little man got his first taste for the season.

We would each pick a handful and take turns bringing them to Brady P.  Braeden would grab the whole pile of berries out of our hands like an eagle clawing an unsuspecting fish.  Then he shoved his dripping fistful into his mouth and chewed them up.

The berry grabbing face and talon

He enjoyed them, all right.

When we climbed back in to drive further, Braeden got mad.  He signed "More!  More!" with his little thumb poking into his palm and squealed at us.

"We're driving to find some more berries!" we tried to reason with a ravenous toddler.  We simply couldn't pick enough that day to satiate the little guy.

But he learned how to pick them on his own.

I've been a berry picker up here for 11 years; as long as I've lived here, I've been part of the craze.  I know the thrill of the whole process: the waiting, the finding, the picking, the sound they make in the bucket, the eating, the storing, etc.

To see my own flesh and blood recognize a thimbleberry bush, walk up to it, gently pick the ripe berry and eat it with delight made me so proud.  So proud.  Even prouder than the fact that he knows his shapes.

Brady P. the forager

Even though thimbleberry season is waning, I have a feeling that he'll remember them for next year.  On our daily walks, he'll stop in front of a thimbleberry bush, point, and shout, "Ah!" as if to tell me, "There are berries in that bush, Mama!"

Next year I will have some competition in the bushes, as most of the berries might end up in his mouth before they have a chance to plop in my bucket.  Good thing I have some height on him.  He can only reach the low ones.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Garden Hide-and-Seek

Grammy works in the gardens at the campground.  For first year gardens, they are producing quite nicely.  While she is busy watering, mulching and weeding, Brady P. and I go visit her.  And help if we can.

Braeden likes to help by throwing his ball into the plants.  He throws it right into the broccoli patch.  He chucks it right through the rows of corn.  He sinks it deep into the kale plants.

And then he has to find it.

When his ball is too hidden for him to find, he will interrupt our chores by pressing his palms together, moving them up and down and grunting "uh, uh."  His sign for "help."

"I will help you Braeden," I volunteer, so Grammy can keep moving along.  "You threw the ball in the broccoli!" I tell him.  "Let's find it."

He stands next to me as I pull the leaves back and look under the plants.  "Baa-aall, where aaaare you?" I sing as I duck under the foliage.

I want Braeden to know we are looking through the broccoli.  And when he throws it in the corn, I want him to know it's in the corn.  No matter which vegetable the ball lands in, Grammy and I tell him the name of it.  The chances of him memorizing all the plants by fall is minimal, but I think it's a great opportunity for him to learn where his food comes from.

Brady P. takes his ball throwing seriously

Soon enough we find his ball.  "Here it is, Brady P!" I shout to him.  "Now stay on the path."  

The path.

The only way we can allow him to stay in the garden at all is because he learned what the path is.  Now it took laps of Grammy and me marching through the garden with him on our heels to learn what the path was.  "Marching on the path," we sing to whatever nursery rhyme was stuck in our heads that day.

And he walks right behind us on the dirt path.  That way, when he goes to find his ball in the corn, we can yell, "Stay on the path!" and he looks down, and finds a path to the corn.  It's fun to make a game out of it.  Sometimes we zigzag through like a maze, and I ask him where he thinks the path goes from a certain spot.  He can usually find one.

Grammy reminding him where the path is

He certainly likes the challenge of learning, and he loves that ball.  Uh oh, where did it go this time?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Rainy Day Genius

Yesterday it rained for part of the afternoon.  One of those hallelujah soakers that top off a gorgeous week of sunny and 70's with no bugs right before the humidity rises to a sweltering heat.  You know, that one or two days of hot and muggy per summer that we get here next to Lake Superior.

Luckily, Brady P., Grammy Linda and I already sat out on the shore to throw rocks.  We were certainly sun-kissed when we returned home for the little man's nap.

He passed right out.  Another hallelujah moment.

On rainy days, we have to get creative.  Luckily, Brady P. is easily entertained with books, puzzles, music and animals.  He is, quite honestly, a nerd when it comes to books.  If it's just the two of us, and I am performing my household duties, I'll notice that things are a little quiet.  That's when a mom worries.  Then I'll franticly look to where I saw him last, and find him sitting down with a book in his lap, flipping through the pages like he's studying for a test.  I just chuckle to myself.  That little nerd.

When it comes to puzzles, he's a genius.  We may as well get rid of all the puzzles that have the back board matching the piece that goes on top of it.  Way too easy.  He need ages 3+ puzzles, and he is not three years old yet.  

One puzzle that I am particularly amazed by is the shape puzzle.  I could type up a detailed analysis of how impressive his skills are with this puzzle, but you probably wouldn't believe me, so here is a video.


Well, that was most of the puzzle.  I don't even know if I would have the attention span to complete it while listening to my dry tone.  He has completed it many times, however, and that was take number seven for the day.

So you may or may not be amazed that a two-and-three-quarters year old boy with Down syndrome can do a puzzle like that. He actually conquered it last winter.  But do you know why he is so smart?  Because somebody believes in him.  I believe in him.  His whole family, all his friends and our community believes in him.  He defies the odds in many aspects of his life, and this is certainly one of those aspects.

A month before this video was taken, I had Braeden show his Early On coordinator (a program that helps give parents and children with extra needs the tools for success during ages birth to three) the shape puzzle.  I asked her, "Can we show off for you?"

"Please do," she answered.  When I pulled out the shape puzzle and dumped out the pieces, she added, "Now, you know this puzzle is for ages three to four."

"Okay," I shrugged.  Then I asked Brady P. to find the blue trapezoid.  When he picked it up and put it in, she about tipped over!

"Wow, Amanda," she gasped.  "I figured he could put the pieces in, but I never expected him to know the shapes!"

Bam.  Brady P. knows his shapes.

He knows a lot of things.  Though he is still working on speaking, he can point to the numbers 1-10 if you ask.  He can point to many letters of the alphabet correctly.  He can pick out just about any animal in the world.  He knows big from little, happy from sad and up from down.  He can recognize and show me about thirty signs in order to communicate.  He is just starting to understand the concept of colors.

And even sweeter than all the numbers and shapes in the world, he knows when somebody needs a hug, and he gives them one, making their day better.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

High Rock Bay

Brady P. just had his first trip out to High Rock Bay.  To get to High Rock, you take an off-road vehicle approximately eight miles past the end of the road.  Technically, it's the beginning of U.S. Highway 41, but we usually call it the end of the road because that's where the pavement stops and, once the gravel stops, you're in the lake -- or the bush.

The timing of this eight-mile adventure is deceiving.  It takes about 35 minutes to get there from the end of the road.  Aaron, Brady P. and I went out in the "buggy," properly known as a Kubota side-by-side. 

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Braeden likes to drive the buggy.  Well, Daddy has been giving him a bit more liberty with the steering wheel lately.  Daddy also has to jerk the wheel back quickly, so we don't run into the trees or the ditch.  "Keep it on the road, Brady P!" we shout and laugh.

After Brady P. "drove" us over half way to High Rock, the road got rough.  We had to slow way down to maneuver through holes, ruts, puddles and uneven ground.  At that point, the wee man passed out on Dad's lap.  Driving is tough business.

Brady P. napping at the wheel

He slept the rest of the way to High Rock.  But when we got there, it was time for a hike, so Dad woke him up.  

As any parent knows, waking up your toddler before they are done napping sets a cantankerous, defiant tone for the rest of the day.  Luckily we brought Braeden's frisbee, which he loves and carries around like a teddy bear.  We threw the frisbee down the trail and all raced to pick it up and throw it again.

Otherwise, that kid wasn't walking anywhere.

Aaron is a busy man, but when he can sneak family time into his work, he does.  His main point of this trek was to check the work his crew did on Phase 2 of the Keweenaw Point Trail.  It was exciting for us to traverse the trail that he designed the spring before.  It's a unique section because parts of it skirt along the shore of Lake Superior.

Aaron surveyed while throwing the frisbee for Cranky Pants Jones.  However, I felt that our snail pace wasn't conducive to Aaron's work ethic, so I suggested that Braeden and I sit on the beach and throw rocks while he hiked the rest of the way.  That was a good decision for everyone.

Brady P. was grateful not to get prodded along the trail and instead feel right at home on a bed of rocks along the Big Lake.  He began throwing right away.

Brady P. mid-launch

There are a few things I'd like you to note about this picture:

1) Look at the size of that rock (captured just above his head).  That is his favorite size to throw, and he can throw them far.

2) Look at his left hand.  He whips rocks so hard that he has to steady and balance himself, so he doesn't tip over.  Nice follow through, buddy.

3) Look at the horizon where the lake meets the sky.  See that slightly raised dark area that pans the middle third of the shot?  That is Manitou Island.  See the tiny dot just to the right of that?  That is the Gull Rock lighthouse.  The view is better if you were really out there -- or if you had a better camera -- or if you were actually a decent photographer.  I claim none of those things.

After a good session of throwing rocks in the water, Braeden turned on me.  That 15 minute snooze in the buggy did not replace his afternoon nap.  Brady P. was becoming out of control of his actions.

He started throwing rocks at me.

When he throws a rock at me at our usual beaches, I say a combination of things like, "Ouch!  That hurts, Braeden.  Throw the rocks in the water, please.  We don't throw rocks at people."  And he knows all that, so he stops.

But that day, he didn't seem to care.

He knew that what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway.  I couldn't think of what I did to deserve a pelting of rocks from my son, so I blamed it on the lack of nap.  Nonetheless, his behavior was unacceptable.

Darn it.  You thought little Brady P. was an angel, didn't you?  And here I am showing you his dark side.  Well, this blog is about life, too.

I pulled that little boy onto my lap, laid him on his back and held his hands firmly.  I stared straight into his eyes and scolded him.  "We do NOT throw rocks at people, Braeden.  That hurts Mama.  Rocks go in the water."

I held him there for a moment, then gave him a kiss and a hug because that is always a good transition.  Well, he didn't really want a kiss and a hug this time.  Nope.  He crawled off my lap and walked back to the bushes and sat down all by himself.

Hmm, I thought.  He's mad at me right now.  But that's okay.  He can be mad for a bit.  Emotions are part of life, and I want him to be able to express his and know that it will get better soon.

Luckily, Daddy came through the bushes a bit later.  Brady P. turned into a Daddy's boy on the spot.  Geez, make me feel like a bad mom!

We sat for a bit longer and ate some fruit on the beach.  Then we played the frisbee toss game back down the trail to the buggy.  We explored the entrance area a bit more, but Brady P. made it clear that he wanted to go home.  That little dirt-faced boy was a bit out of his wits.

I couldn't blame him, though.  I was getting there myself.  It was time to go home, eat some dinner and have a night-long nap.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Playground Antics

By now, I think it's clear that Brady P. and I love to be outside.  At this point in the summer, he's got the farmer's tan to prove it, too.  The air up here is so fresh, that the breeze and sunshine are pretty much an addiction.  We both feel a little anxious and groggy when we're cooped up from the rain.  Then we go a little crazy.

But this week has been lovely, so to the playground we went.  

Braeden's first trip to the Copper Harbor playground (which is really awesome, by the way) occurred in the spring of 2015.  Braeden was about seven months old, and his daddy was there digging out a spot for steps to connect the lower ground to the upper ground.

It was pretty neat that Dad was there because it was also B's first time on a swing, and Daddy got to push him.

Baby B's first swing ride

See that slight look of panic on his face?  Yeah, his dad pushed him all right.  Aaron's philosophy takes everything to the extreme -- even his son's first swing ride.  At least Brady P. had the instincts to hang on with one hand.

These days, Braeden still loves that swing.  When we get to the playground, he points to the swing first.  While I push him gently, he points to the big kid swing next to it and says, "Eh!"  That means he wants me to swing beside him.

So I push him to the count of three then jump on the next swing and pump as high as he is going.  "We're swinging together, Brady P!" I shout.  He laughs because he loves it so much.

When he's done with the swing, he'll point to the ground to get down or the slide -- his next favorite feature.  I am so proud that Brady P. can climb up the four steps, shimmy onto the slide, push himself down and land safely in the wood chips all by himself!!!

I am there to spot, of course, but he is totally autonomous with the little kid slide.  He learned it this spring.  I couldn't wait to show Grammy Linda when she came up this summer.

But Brady P. had something else to show her the last time they were at the playground together.  I was somewhere else at the time, but she had a story to tell when I got home.

Grammy sat down at the bottom of the little slide with her feet in the wood chips.  Braeden, who likes to command people's body parts, pushed her torso down, so she was laying halfway up the slide.  When she lifted her head to laugh at him, he pushed it back down.

Then he climbed up the steps.

Grammy popped her head back up to make sure he was ascending safely.  When he saw that maneuver, do you know what he did?  He shook his head, descended the steps in a huff and pushed her head back down.  

Then he climbed back up the steps.

Well, Grammy thought that was so funny that she popped her head up again.  Sure enough, he shook his head with his little throat gurgle sound, got down and pushed her head back onto the slide.

Then he climbed back up the steps.

Grammy was laughing so hard, but Braeden didn't think it was funny.  Oh, no.  He wanted her to lay perfectly still until he got to the top, so he could slide down onto her head.  What a stinker.

Finally, she let him finish climbing, and, sure enough, he slid down onto her head and giggled.  Then they both slid down the rest of the way, and he made her lay down again so they could play his little game some more.

That little boy.  He definitely has preferences and ideas and doesn't like deviating from them, especially if it's not his idea.  But it's the little things like that that show us how much he is learning and developing each day.  He is his own person, and we are grateful for him in our lives.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Colorful Kites

This past weekend Grammy Linda, Brady P. and I drove to Eagle River, Michigan to treat ourselves to a day at the beach.  Aaron and ten of his friends were out in the Lake Superior wind and waves kite boarding, so we went to watch their performance.

Upon approaching the shore, the power of the wind was apparent.  It lifted their kites high in the sky and gave them the power they needed to tack through the water like surfers who owned the lake.  It blew the delicious smell of freshly smoking meats from The Fitz past our nostrils.  And it cooled the temperature down at least 10-15 degrees from the lovely warm day we just left in Copper Harbor.

Grammy and I are really good at preparing.  We had lawn chairs, snacks, bathing suits, towels, bug dope, toys and everything we could have needed at the beach.  Everything except long pants and jackets.  Luckily I had a few baby blankets in the van.  I turned a Noah's Ark quilt into a shawl and wore it the whole time we were there.

Brady P. didn't care about a little chill or the wind.  He ran his water-shoed feet down to a crest on the shore just before the beach sloped into the lake, and began to throw rocks.  This beach had the good rocks -- golf ball to softball size -- that kids go crazy for.  He tossed them in merrily while sitting between Grammy and I.  We tried to be his wind blockers.

We watched our friends cruising through the waves with their sliver-of-the-moon kites soaring through the sky.  We weren't the only ones gawking, though.  All the tourists were pretty amazed at the sight they stumbled upon.  They took pictures and commented on the kiters' jumps and spills.

Four dudes flying kites

And Brady P.'s dad was one of them.

Soon after we sat down, Aaron sailed to the shore to shout, "Hey Jonesy!"

"It's Daddy!" Grammy and I exclaimed to P. Pie Jones -- another one of his nicknames.  He pointed with delight, then went back to throwing the perfect stones.

Each time I would ask Braeden, "Where's Daddy?" he would point toward the water.  He knew Dad was out there somewhere.  He seemed to enjoy watching the colorful kites roam the sky, but the rocks and eventual snacks were definitely a priority.

So was a nap.

Even though he traded off between snuggling under mine and Grammy's blankets, the wind, woo-hooing and shenanigans were too stimulating.  Even for a boy three hours past nap time.

He had plenty to do.  He dug in the sand with his red bucket.  He listened, totally enamored, as little Maddie Mae played her ukelele.  He ate graham crackers, chips, a brat and sand.  He roamed the beach, tossing Grammy's flip flop around.  He helped the guys by throwing more sand on their beached kites.

Brady P. helping sand the kite

That picture should give you an idea of just how big those kites are.

After a few hours we started to get sandblasted by the gusts.  Linda and I looked at each other with sand in our teeth and hair and agreed it was time to make our way back home along the lakeshore.  Brady P. waved goodbye to all his wetsuit wearing friends, and I buckled that tousled nugget into his seat.

He was asleep before we even left the parking lot.