Category Archives: Michigan

Summer (winter?) vacation – same same but different

This is for Sam, who reminded me that I haven’t posted in awhile…

We left South American winter for North American summer in mid-June for a stay at our lake house in Michigan.

Our school calendar includes only a month’s break with a new school year kicking off July 24 (tomorrow!). That meant we had to cram in a year’s worth of house maintenance and family fun into four short weeks.

Annesley perches on the wall in front of our house.

My sister, Kate, lives nearby with her family. My other sister, Megan, drove from Texas with her family and stayed with us for three weeks. (Her husband flew home for work, but he came back for a few days at the end of her visit.) My brother, Mike, stopped by Michigan with his family en route from England to their new home in Korea. And my parents roadtripped from Florida. Seventeen of us in all, including seven kids ranging in age from one to 10. We are a pretty tight-knit family, even though we migrate to various global destinations, so I was thrilled to spend this time together.

Kate’s friend, Gary, kindly and patiently staged a family photo shoot for our gang of nutballs.

As Tony said, if you want to know what our summer was like, you should read any summer blog post from the last few years. But here’s the scoop.

We have some standard summer activities…

Lake fun, of course!

Biking on the Paint Creek Trail. We almost always see a few deer.

Playing in the creek at Rochester Park.

Jack got soaked, so I gave him my sweatshirt.

Jumping on giant rubber food in the play area of the Great Lakes Crossing Outlet Mall….

… followed by lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. (I’m not really sure why we keep coming back here as there is always at least one kid who is scared to death of all the loud, animated animals. This year, it was poor little Max.)

Flare Night is a Lake Orion tradition with a fabulous party at our neighbor’s house. Unfortunately, I had to make an airport run that night to pick up Tony, who was returning from a conference. So no photos. The Fourth of July fireworks were pretty spectacular, as always. We watched from our deck after a fun day of splashing in the lake.

Other summer snapshots…

Kate’s new house features a fantastic basement playroom, where we sent the munchkins to build with legos, play Monopoly, hold nerf wars, watch movies, and whatever else kept them busy.

They also set up a badminton court in the backyard, which was a huge hit with children and adults.

Mike is always good for a little rough-housing, but he might be getting a bit old to take on all seven at the same time.

When my dad babysits, this happens.

We watched Moana a lot. Meg bought these costumes at the Dollar Store, but her kids soon fought over who got to be Maui.

Jack turned four and celebrated with a party at the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center. Everyone learned about and touched several animals, including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a small snake, a bearded dragon, and a couple turtles.

Party highlights:
When Kate was setting up the party, her balloon bouquet escaped into the woods.

Getting out the ice cream, Summer found some tarantulas in the freezer.

The bearded dragon snacked on a crunchy beetle, and the turtles shared a worm. Yum!

The superhero masks were pretty funny.
Birthday boy, Iron Man.

The Hulk (Will) eats some pizza.

We also celebrated my parents 43rd wedding anniversary, a few weeks early.

Tony and I spent a day at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Detroit. We picked our favorite cars (1955 Corvette roadster for me; 1965 Mustang convertible for Tony), marveled at the massive old trains, strolled down memory lane at an exhibit called “Your Place in Time,” and toured the aluminum Dymaxion House.

As part of a powerful exhibit on transformative moments in U.S. history, we saw the original bus where Rosa Parks took a stand and the chair in which President Lincoln was assassinated.

In a less evocative moment, we posed with the Wienermobile.

Overall, it was same same but different … another wonderful – albeit fleeting – summer.

Making Michigan memories in a blink

When we were lounging lakeside back in June, we bemoaned our brief summer break. Accustomed to about eight weeks of downtime in Michigan, we resented having to go back to work in just one month. Our school in India wrapped up June 1, but we had to report to our new jobs in Chile on July 3.

“No fair!” we cried. “We’ll just come back in September when we have a week off!”

Well, that was a stupid plan. I made it even stupider by screwing up the flight reservations. I must have been using last year’s school calendar when I booked the tickets for Sept. 24-30. In fact, the break was a week earlier. When I realized my mistake, I phoned the airline, cried and pleaded, and got the fee waived. However, I still had to pay the difference in the fare, which was about $700 total … and we had to wait till Saturday night to leave Santiago … and our flight back to Chile had two stops. Awesome.

That meant we had a total of four full days in Michigan at the rate of about $700 per day, counting airfare and car rental. Kind of ridiculous.

Anyway, it turned out September was a wonderful time to be there. Trees were just starting the transformation from green to scarlet. The lake was still warm enough for a swim, and the weather was perfect. With school in session, our neighborhood was practically deserted. Sitting on the deck with my coffee in the morning, I watched the ducks frolicking in the lake and listened to the chattering of birds in the willow tree. Maybe it was worth the money?

We didn’t have internet or phone service at the lake, so we spent a little time each day using the free wifi at McDonald’s. That was the only way to contact my sister Kate to make plans for the day.

Tony enjoyed pottering around the house, but I spent most of my time hanging out with Kate and 3-year-old Jack. His big brothers were in school, so he got a lot of attention.



We had a little fashion shoot with Chilean vests, hats and flags.


It might not have been the most fiscally responsible choice to fly home for less than a week, but it was lovely nonetheless.

Summer 2016: Short but sweet

As we transition from India to Chile … from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere … from summer to winter … from a 9.5-hour time difference to NO time difference … from Hindi to Spanish … it’s all kind of blowing my mind.

I could have spent our short summer break stressing about it all, but there was no time! We had a shorter-than-usual holiday because (a) “newbie teachers” at the Nido de Aguilas International School have to show up to school a couple weeks early for orientation, and (b) it’s winter in Chile, so our new school’s long “summer break” actually starts in December.

Besides, I was distracted by a whole bunch of cuteness in the form of nieces and nephews. I also wanted to catch up with all three of my siblings and a couple sib-in-laws (reunited from Michigan, Texas and England); my parents, who drove up from Florida; and one of my dearest friends, who visited from St. Louis.

Tony and I didn’t have time to enjoy our summer activities as much as usual: biking on the trails, kayaking, grilling out, walking around the lake, etc. But we also didn’t have time to stress about the huge transitions about to turn our world upside down.

Cocktails with Tarren, who is more like a sister after 30+ years of friendship.

After she returned to St. Louis, Tarren sent Cardinals teddies to all the kids (and tasty treats for the adults).

My sister, Megan, and her two munchkins stayed with Tony and me at the lake. We read a lot of books.

We pretended the fan was blowing us over so we could bellyflop on to the cushions.

We tried to stage a couple photo shoots. Impossible to get this group to cooperate.



We took a boat ride with our neighbor, Kim.

We took out the kayaks and the stand-up paddleboard a couple times. I remember when Nico and Paul were too little to paddle alone, and now they’re taking passengers out for a ride!


We played at the nearby mall, always a fun destination with the kids. The Bass Pro Shop’s fish tank and taxidermy extravaganza, the carousel, and the Lego store were big attractions.

We found a new trampoline park with a ninja warrior course. So fun!



Meg battled a little boy and knocked him into the foam pit for a chance to face off with Kate. Ha!

We had a pool party at Kate’s house.




Ella mostly lounged in a sunny spot and tried to stay clear of all the children.

But she had a hard time escaping from this one.

Our last night in Michigan was Flare Night, when lake dwellers line the perimeter of the lake with road flares and light them at 10 p.m. According to the Oakland Press News, the tradition started in 1945 to celebrate the end of World War II. Our neighbors always have a blow-out party that night, so it was a fun way to wrap up our short summer break. In a rite of passage, Nico lit our flares (with help from Tony).




Hungry Days of Summer

It took a couple weeks, but Tony and I are finally over jetlag and mostly decompressed from school stress. Time to get down to business. There’s so much to eat and drink before the end of July!

Here are some of my Michigan food-and-drink-related routines:
(1) I welcome myself home with a cake from Kroger’s. Usually I just pop in to the store and ask for a cake that says, “Welcome home, Sharon!” and then I eat it in secret. This time, I decided to be more inclusive and I had the hilarious plan of asking the baker to box in a corner and write, “… and Tony.” My sister Kate offered to pick up the cake for me, but when she saw the poor baker seemed to suffer from terrible arthritis, she said, “You can just write ‘Welcome home S & T’.” Lame.

(2) I eat avocado every day. This is my Second Annual Eat Avocado Every Day Summer Challenge. It started last summer when I was stuck in Washington, D.C., with a fun group of ladies from AES, waiting for our new Indian visas to be issued. We found ourselves at the same Mexican restaurant most days, eating guacamole. Avocados in Delhi are rare and expensive, so it seems like a good plan to get ’em while I can. My favorite lunch time treat? A loaded BLAT sandwich.

(3) I eat copious amounts of pie. My favorite? Strawberry rhubarb. Bring it. (And be sure to bring Breyer’s Natural Vanilla ice cream, too.)

(4) I drink a ridiculous amount of beer and wine. With import duties around 150%, booze is pricey in India. My go-to red wine in Delhi is Yellow Tail Shiraz, which retails at $30. Guess how much it costs in Michigan? $4.95! Less than five bucks! We have a beer pub in our Delhi neighborhood, where Tony and I go for dinner occasionally. A nice pizza and a couple glasses of beer costs us about $100. So, if most of my summer pictures show a drink in my hand, don’t judge.

(5) Bacon. Bacon. And more bacon. The Hindus in India don’t eat beef, and the Muslims in India don’t eat pork. So the only ubiquitous meat is chicken. Dang it, I am so sick of chicken. Bacon cheeseburger with guacamole? Yes, please!

By the end of the summer, I may be jonesing for a samosa, but for now, you’ll find me on my deck, beer in hand and gearing up for my next American snack.

Summer Flashback: Oakland County Fair

For a real taste of Americana, there’s nothing better than a county fair. Even those of us who didn’t grow up raising crops or cattle can appreciate the hard work and commitment. The Oakland County Fair is just the right size for a daylong visit: 4-H crafts, bottomless cup of chocolate milk for 50 cents, livestock barns, dog show, midway games, children’s activities, farm equipment on display, pig races, petting zoo, bumper cars and greasy food.

One of our favorite attractions is the Miracle of Life Barn full of animals and their new babies. We saw two huge sows with squealing piglets, as well as baby goats, sheep, cows, and rabbits. However, the greatest attraction for Nico was the incubator full of hatching eggs. After missing one egg hatch (while we wandered away to see the piglets), he was determined to witness the next one. Eventually, the rest of the family scooted off to get lunch, but Nico didn’t want to leave. I sat with him as he stared at the egg. It rocked and wiggled and then went still as the chick inside took a break from its exhausting journey. We waited as other groups stopped by and moved on. Nico told them all, “It should just be a few more minutes,” but only he had the patience to wait. Finally, after 30 minutes, a little beak poked through the shell, pushing and jiggling until the egg split in half and the tiny wet chick flopped out. Amazing.



Playing on the tractors.


Rides and games.








Fair fun.





Summer Flashback: Flare Night and 4th of July

Flare Night at Lake Orion was quieter than usual for me this year as most of the family opted out. Tony had gone to Kansas to see his family, so Kate and her boys spent the night. We set up the road flares (without any family men to help!) and waited till 10 p.m. to light them, when the whole perimeter of the lake glowed red.





The Fourth of July was also a little different. Usually we all traipse over to the neighbor’s yard for a clear view of the fireworks, but this year the location changed and we could see most of them from our deck. Fortunately, the painters finished the exterior work in time. The whole gang came over (including our adopted siblings Mike and Chris Gray). John looped twinkly lights along the porch railing and hung my red, white and blue lanterns from India. So festive!










Summer Flashback: John scores an MBA!

My brother-in-law John has something he hasn’t had in a long time: free Thursday nights! After attending night classes at University of Phoenix for the last couple years, he graduated this summer with a Master’s in Business Administration. The graduation ceremony took place June 21 at Ford Field in Detroit, and John may have had the most fans in the audience. My whole family attended, along with John’s parents and many other family members. We all enjoyed a delicious lunch in Detroit’s Mexican Town afterwards.

We’re all so proud of John!









Caught him on the big screen.




Summer Flashback: Kids and kayaks

A typical summer day at the lake involves pitching the little tent for shade, kayaking around the island and through the willow tree “jungle,” possibly unmooring the paddle boat for a short outing, filling the baby pool with a few inches of fresh water, loading up the picnic table with snacks and drinks, feeding the ducks, playing with the fishing pole (with a glow stick instead of a hook), swimming and splashing and otherwise scaring the fish.

We always spend at least one day raking out sea grass. Nobody wants that stuff grabbing your toes or wrapping around your thigh while you swim. It’s enough to give you nightmares!



We had LOTS of ducklings hanging around the lake this summer. Our favorite duck, Sheila, made a nest in our front yard for the second year in a row, but we were sad to hear all her eggs were broken – presumably by a neighborhood cat. Here, Paul kayaks with a mommy duck and her three babies.

Paul Chasing Ducks from Sharon Dent on Vimeo.


The kayaks were a huge hit. Kate bought two children’s kayaks, but Nico easily managed the adult kayak. Even little Paul paddled around the whole island by himself for the first time. After watching a neighbor pull a huge snapping turtle out of the lake, he far preferred kayaking over swimming!

All five nephews got together at the lake this year. Can we make that an annual event? Mike, Summer and Max visited from London, and Britt, Megan and Will popped by Michigan during their move from Korea to Texas.










All the men on the dock.

Summer Flashback: Jack turns 1!

A few friends and family members gathered at Kate’s house July 7 to celebrate the first birthday of my littlest Jimenez nephew – Jack.


His brothers, cousins and neighborhood friends decorated cupcakes. Big brother Paul created a cupcake mutant, while cousin Emma went with a more conventional creation.




Jack didn’t give us the messy frosting explosion we have come to expect at first birthdays. In fact, he barely acknowledged his cute gluten-free cupcake.





Instead, we got our messy explosion every time Jack ate watermelon this summer as evidenced here (a couple weeks before his birthday).

Watermelon Jack from Sharon Dent on Vimeo.

In Kate’s family, little boys get their first haircut when they turn one, so it was Jack’s turn! It also provided an opportunity for him to have his first lollipop. The rainbow-haired young beautician was patient and sweet with our little lovebug.


Such a handsome big boy!