How I Spent My Summer Vacation

We did a lot of nothing. We also did everything. Long days quickly added up to two short months.

September 16, 2016 | | Departments

The Roman calendar dictates that the year begins on January 1, so every 365 days we ring in the new with fireworks and clinking glasses, but kids everywhere know the year really begins with the first day back to school in September.

Teachers, still feeling sunny and not quite in routine, often ask students to reflect on their summer vacation (quietly, quietly) at their desks. Fresh journals are creased open and children everywhere stare at the blank pages, trying to remember basic sentence structure.

This year, our summer vacation was pretty much all over the place. There was no structure. I was unexpectedly out of work due to a reorganization, and so, while scratching to make ends meet and rabidly looking for a job, I also had a lot of time to spend with my son Adrian.

For once, he wasn’t signed up for a series of camps. Scary for a parent (who tends to be an organization freak) to have days and days stretching ahead and no plans on the calendar.

So what did we do on our summer vacation?

We did a lot of nothing. We also did everything. Long days quickly added up to two short months. We went to dozens of ball practices and games, and three weekend-long tournaments. We went to Island Lake and Mono Cliffs for walks and bike rides. We went to Wasaga Beach with my parents and ate peanut butter sandwiches and stopped for fries on the way home. Scenic Caves in Collingwood. The Urban Slide on Broadway. Pool party at my aunt and uncle’s. Canada Day fireworks. Wonderland. We did things we haven’t been able to do for years – things we would previously have had to decline, or choose between one or the other.

Aside from the bigger activities, we did a lot of the things you often don’t take time to do with your kids when you’re wound up and on the clock. We watched a lot of videos online (becoming a “YouTube-r” is now a career choice for those born after 2000, by the way). We downloaded and played Pokémon Go once it came out in Canada. Hordes of kids and adults alike scurried along Broadway and the median with smiles on their faces as they captured Rattatas, Weedles and Pidgeys mysteriously hidden among the fountains and behind tree sculptures.

We walked 10 kilometres to hatch a Pokémon Go egg. Seriously – 10 kilometres! I haven’t walked and talked with my family that much – ever.

I saw a snotty post on Facebook: “Aren’t these people playing Pokémon Go needed by their families? Get a life.” Being involved in something my son loves and active at the same time felt like a blessing to me, not something to be chastised for. I kept my online mouth shut and stayed out of useless debates. Say what you will about tech and gaming, it brought introverts, couch potatoes and families out and connecting this summer in ways they never have before.

One of my favourite days involved basic fort making. Adrian and I had been watching British ex-military survivalist Bear Grylls on TV – who (handsomely!) built a basic shelter in the forest just in time to avoid a thunderous rain. Adrian insisted we could, and should, do this in Gramma and Grampa’s forest.

One of my favourite days involved basic fort making. Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

One of my favourite days involved basic fort making. Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.


The next day was 40 degrees, buggy and humid – and it was fort building time. My parents, happy in the AC when we arrived, were not enthralled to be heading out to the bush with us into the wall of black flies, but they came anyway at Adrian’s call. Soon we were dragging branches to create a fantastic lean-to of Adrian’s design. My dad went back to the house to get a hacksaw. The fort started to take form and threw shade – and protection from theoretical rainstorms. We covered the lean-to with leaves and built layers of fragrant pine needles on the floor. Adrian dragged over a flat rock for Gramma to sit on.

I stepped back to survey our creation and find some perfect leafy branches to fill in the remaining cracks, per our architect’s direction. I saw my dad heading back to the house to get out of the bugs, my mom sitting on the rock chattering with Adrian while he showed her how he could stretch out fully in his lean-to. Did she think there were bears in Mulmur? Could he sleep out here sometime?

I smiled through my tears. It had been the hardest spring and summer of my life. I lost my brother unexpectedly in the spring, and a month later, the job I loved. Summer has always been my favourite, and while this one had been the worst, it had also been very meaningful.

What did we do on summer vacation? I looked up at the crows cawing and circling above, telling me to pay attention. The cicadas gave their knowing feedback: Life goes on, you come back.

Fun Fall Family Events

Cool factor

George Stroumboulopoulos will be at Dufferin County Museum & Archives on September 25 from 2 to 4 p.m. Your kids and teens will know him as host of Hockey Night in Canada. You’ll remember him as a radio DJ on CFNY, VJ on Much Music and host of The Hour on CBC. He’ll be talking about his interviews with everyone from Prince Charles to Kermit the Frog – an event for the whole family. Register by phone, 1-877-941-7787, or email [email protected]. The cost is $20 for adults, $5 for kids. DCMA is in the big barn at Airport Road and Highway 89.

For the budding artist

Maggiolly Art Supplies in downtown Orangeville offers “Creative Kidz” – the very popular Saturday art classes for kids ages 6 to 12. During the course of eight project-filled Saturdays, kids will work with a variety of local and professional artists in a variety of styles and media, including drawing, painting or sculpture – or a combination of all three. In a bright, professional studio, budding artists are encouraged to express themselves creatively while learning art concepts and having fun. The next series starts October 1.

… and for the budding equestrian

The 2016 Headwaters Stable Tour takes place October 1–2 here in Horse Country when equine facilities in Caledon, Dufferin, Erin and King open their doors to the public. Visit breeding farms, coaching and training facilities and riding schools, boarding stables and ranches, all for free. Young horse enthusiasts will experience a rare “behind the scenes” perspective. Locations on this self-guided tour include Caledon Equestrian Park, Glenaura Farm, Rustic Meadows, Silver Fox Farm, The Meadows and Winsong Farm.

Safe and spooky options

Come Halloween, your little ghouls have all kinds of options around the community for fun-filled games and spooky adventures. Among them is Halloween Safe Night at the Caledon Community Complex in Caledon East where there will be treats for children of all ages (accompanied by an adult). It runs from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and costs just $2.65. Register online at

Or join the Rotary Club of Palgrave for free hot chocolate at Albion Hills Auto Collision Centre on Highway 50. On Halloween night, by some sorcery, we hear the auto centre will be transformed into a haunted house – ghosts of cars past, perhaps? Donations for local charities welcome.

Or get a jump on the whole thing at the Children’s Halloween Party at the Mono Community Centre on October 23. Come dressed in your Halloween costume and enjoy some frightfully good fun, including prizes, treat bags and live entertainment. Cost is $6; children under 3 free. Register by calling 519-941-3599, ext 233.

About the Author More by Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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