´¯`•. May 16, 2017

Mother’s Day Part I:  Up the River

As some of you remember, last Mother’s Day, my guy came up to me and said, “So!  What would you like to do?  We could go to the zoo… or to Fernwood Gardens…?”  And I shook my head and whipped out a hand-drawn plan for building a bike trailer.  So we ended up going to the lumberyard and spending the weekend building a bike trailer!  (← Very much needful when seven bikes no longer fit in the back of the truck, due to growing children.  Not to mention the need to get rid of the truck for something seven people can fit in.)

The one we built isn’t as fancy as this picture, but you get the idea.  And guess what?!  THIS April we got actual WHEELS for it, and can use it, now!  (((LoL!)))  We took the bikes out twice with it, and Brian’s now using it to get Grandpa’s trash, once a week.  It was a gift that keeps on giving!

So this year.  Everyone was waiting to hear what my BIG plans were for Mother’s Day.

((NoTe:  We don’t see our mothers.  My stepmother never much cared for me.  Brian’s mother hates him and despises me more, so we haven’t seen her in 8+ years [?].  And I used to try to see my mother, but that comes with a price that I’m no longer willing to pay.  Not to mention she totally screws it with her “I don’t see the fuss, we don’t celebrate that, it’s just another day” diatribes.  It’s not worth it.  I celebrate Mother’s Day.  Hugely.  Any day that I can have fun on, really.  Jewish, pagan, silly… whatever.  We have SO MANY special days, it’s not funny.  But then, life is short.  Enjoy everything.))

So I was thinking of what I wanted to do, and… I really wanted to canoe.  We only have one canoe – we got it off CL in winter way way way up north, so it was a 17′ for $150.  But seven people won’t fit in one canoe.  So I was looking on-line, but… it’s spring, and everyone is looking for canoes.  They’re around $300, now.  I can’t swing that.  So I called a canoe livery place, and left a message asking if they were open Mother’s Day.  Which meant renting two canoes, which… okay, it would end up being $80 by the time we were all said and done.  But what do you do?

(They never called me back, so it doesn’t matter.)

So the day before Mother’s Day, I get back on CL, one last time… just because I believe in miracles.  And there – in the ads – was a 17′ aluminum canoe in Grand Rapids for $100.   The ad said that it had a very slow leak, lots of patches (that don’t leak at all), and was ‘seriously ugly’, and that was why it was cheap.  Now… can I be honest?  I’m poor.  We don’t have money.  We have seven people on one income.  So I am willing to buy ugly to have fun.  In fact, it’s kind of a motto – ‘you can either be beautiful or have fun, not both’.  Ugly is fine.  And honestly?  $100 for a canoe we can use over and over again, versus $80 for a one-time trip?  I’d take the canoe!  So I talked my very indulgent husband into it, and we went to town and bought a second canoe!  Yay!!

I got on-line and did some research about nearby runs that were a) for beginners, b) was easy in/easy out, and c) was around three hours long.  That was a good first trip, I thought.  My guy?  He was indulgent, but FR-eaking out.  He’s not an outdoorsman, and quite honestly, he was NOT excited about going out on the water with a potentially sinking boat, no experience, and five children (four of which are wiggly boys!).  I told him the worst that could happen was that they got cold and wet – we’d be fine.  It’d be fun.

It got complicated, because… reasons… and our transportation for this was problematic.  Which gave my guy further heart palpitations, but honestly, it worked out okay (only psychological damage was sustained).  But we ended up at the launch, carried two mamma-jamma canoes down to the water, lotioned faces and arms and shoulders and backs and chests and necks (but not legs – DON’T FORGET THE LEGS!!!!!), and we jammed five kids in life jackets.  We have three little PlaySkool chairs that we put in the middle of the canoes, for the kids to sit on.  I had a bucket with water bottles, ziplocked keys, extra rope (just in case), and the sponge the CL seller gave us for the leak.  (I’m not kidding.  They gave us half a tube of waterproof caulk and a SPONGE.)

The section of river that we decided to do was from downtown Middleville (from just north of the dam) to 108th Street.  I’d read on-line that this river – the Thornapple – was pretty quiet and sedate, and that it was a nice little paddle.  We went for a drive on our way to buy the canoe – the day before – to see where we would put in and pull out, and it looked… easy going in, kind of skeery pulling out (but only because it was a steep hill from river to road).  There were kayak-ers pulling out there, though, and they said it looks worse than it is.  So we figured it’d be okay.  Maybe a little challenge, but nothing time, multiple kids, and some willpower couldn’t handle.

Good gravy, there ought to be a tutorial on how to paddle a canoe.  And if there is one?  I should’ve watched it, first.  Because we had some SERIOUS issues.  We beached.  We hit fallen trees.  We got tangled in branches.  We screamed.  We traveled backwards.  We laughed and hollared and Isaac made this whole song about “Go-EEENNNNG back-WARDZZZZZZ!”  It was hysterical.  People stood on the shore and laughed at us. *I* laughed at us… until I couldn’t breathe,  anymore.  Or the need to scream came up.

I should probably add that there was NO current,
and it was a mildly curving river.  Nothing extreme.

(((Stop laughing.)))

Then I remembered seeing a picture of a single Indian (Indigenous American Native person…?… I don’t know what they’re called, nowadays, I’m trying)… padding a canoe from the back, alone.  I told the kids to take their oars out, and figured out how to do it, by myself.  THAT helped.  So I’d let the boys paddle until they were about to hit something, and I’d correct us, again.  Or I’d call out where and when they should paddle.  (Isaac, left!  Aaron, right!  Isaac, hold!  Aaron, right!)  Holy WHA.

It was fun.  We saw herons ducks, a horse grazing by the water’s edge, at least four dozen turtles (some enormous).  Fish.  The first half of the trip was natural, but the second half was past a campground and residential, with people and gaudy lawn decorations and stuff.  But it was fun.  Seriously fun.  Until I realized that I’d absolutely FRIED my legs.  The kids weren’t as bad – they had rosy knees, but they hadn’t held still like I was, and didn’t scald as I did.  (Or maybe I’m just pale-r?)  I’m still hurting, and it’s been several days.  Youch.

Anyhow, it was an adventure that everyone loved.  They’re completely willing to do it again, and were geeked about Pizza Hut lunch afterwards.  And for the record, the hill wasn’t too terrible for all of us to haul the boats up, and ‘Leaky’ (← so dubbed for obvious reasons) barely got any water in it, at all.  We were fine – just the soles of my water shoes were wet – nothing more.  That was partially because of moving paddles from one side to the other, anyhow.  So ‘Leaky’ was a good purchase for us, after all!

I’m hoping to take this whole thing further, and earn our canoeing badge in the next few weeks… we’ll see what happens.  But it was a Mother’s Day success, and even my guy ended up having a great time.

Leave a comment


  1. Dave/Elrond

     /  May 16, 2017

    Sounds fun and you obviously didn’t swamp either canoe. Excellent!
    Paddling builds great shoulders, core and back, and builds powerful but not bunchy arms. (it’ll fill those boys right out 😉
    Reminds me of the years of 1week canoe trips we took with the YMCA camps every summer. (plus our own after camp-years camping) I never made Voyageur like my oldest brother, but the rest of us have great paddle skills because of it. (there are a few techniques…) Do it Again!

  2. Haha sounds like fun! Husband wants to go kayaking of late… I said he’s crazy because I can’t swim worth a darn. Our river is not very placid though.


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