Both this week and next, the kids have swimming lessons in the mornings, and I think I did us all a favor in signing up, not just for the exercise and fresh air but also for the impetus it provides at a point in summer at which we can find ourselves straying farther and farther from regular bedtimes and morning risings. Sunset comes a bit earlier now, but afternoon iced coffees, post-dinner walks and bike rides, then movies and books line up, and it’s so easy to postpone sleep, especially if we don’t have to be somewhere before 9:00 a.m. So, I think a little pressure now will help us get back into line for the profound change in schedules that we’ll face in August with early morning cross country practice and, following shortly thereafter, the start of a new school year.
Once the kids have gone for their dip and showered, we’ve usually had a little time to meander before another obligation. Today we stopped at Champaign’s Second Street Basin, a large retention pond that’s been beautified. Not so long ago, this area was occupied by homes, then open grassy area that grew as the city acquired properties and demolished them. When the kids were very small, we stopped by a couple times just to scramble around the old, small Stone Arch Bridge there and splash in the little trickle of water that ran underneath. The bridge is the only thing left in this two-block section that was there 23 years ago when I moved to Champaign. (See Molly inside the original section of the bridge a few photos below.) To hold the hunger pangs at bay, we stopped by the French bakery, Mirabelle, in Urbana. It is so hard to decide. We always have to let at least one customer behind us order first so that we have time to figure out what it is we most want. Individual raspberry clafouti? I can make that at home. Pillowy cheese danish? Oh, that’s tempting. Sugar brioche? I don’t think I’ve tried that yet. Today we settled on two chocolate croissants and a chocolate brioche.
Then we were off to the U of I Extension’s Master Gardeners’ Idea Garden for our annual visit. The plots were bursting with color, all the flowers, fruits, and veggies flourishing in this cooler-than-normal and plenty moist summer we’ve been enjoying. Our family has a penchant for prettified outdoor spaces, so checking out others’ work is really inspirational for us. All the scents and textures, paths, and natural hiding spots, beckoned the kids at every turn when they were smaller. They used to skip and chase each other throughout like butterflies. As they’ve grown, their pace has slowed, and their perceptions have changed, too.
Finn didn’t want to sketch on this visit, as we have in the past, and Molly didn’t want me to take a picture of her garden-inspired drawing, but you can see below what I was looking at and how I rendered the scene with my oh-so-novice hand. It was just for fun. We all know who the real artist in our family is, and he wasn’t with us today.