Tag Archives: Flare Night

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).




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!










SOS – Summer of Stress

For international teachers (well, probably for ALL teachers), summer is a time to relax and recharge, catch up with friends and family, travel and/or find a little stillness. During the school year, we often daydream of lazy days by our lake, biking on the trails, kayaking, finding our zen at yoga classes, playing with the nephews, maybe roadtripping around the region, drinking quality but affordable wine, grilling and chilling, and so on.

By that definition, this summer has been the anti-summer. Sure, we did those things, but not nearly as much as we wanted to, and not nearly with the usual laid-back seasonal spirit.

Every single member of my immediate family is experiencing a major life event this summer: Meg has a 10-month-old baby and is preparing to join her husband in Korea in a couple weeks; Mike retired from the Air Force and just moved with his wife Summer to England; Kate and John have a new baby AND decided to buy my parents house and let them live in the basement apartment; and my parents are moving into the basement AND buying a winter home in Florida. Although Mike isn’t here in Michigan to share his stress in person, the rest of the gang more than made up for it. For now, Megan and her baby, Kate and her whole family, and my parents are all living in the same house. And the stress they’re feeling? I feel it, too. Sigh…

As for Tony and me, we launched a massive renovation of our lake house, which meant we were tethered to it for most of the summer. We couldn’t wander off much because the workers seemed to have hourly questions, to which our answers were usually uninformed and arbitrary but caused us to second-guess ourselves for the rest of the day. (Did we want the bedroom door to open in or out? Did we want an extra light in the hallway to avoid a dark spot? Did we want clear or frosted glass in the bathroom window?) Although we still tried to enjoy our morning coffee on the porch, the construction noise and heavy metal music blaring from the contractors’ radio drowned out the birds. (This morning’s most notable tune was “The Bitch Came Back.”) A makeshift wall separated our living space from the construction zone, but it was far from soundproof. Sometimes we had to stop ourselves mid-sentence (or mid-fight) when we realized the men on the other side of that flimsy plastic sheet could hear everything we said. Perhaps the most stress-inducing part was the mental image of winged money escaping out of our bank account and flitting away into the distance.

We know the remodeled area of our home will be wonderful when it’s finished. Going for long walks around our island in a futile attempt to relax, we have met many neighbors and made some new friends, giving us a sense of optimism about future summers here. We also know the family issues will resolve soon after everyone unpacks and life gets back to normal. Still, we can’t help having a little pity party about our lost summer, compounding our stress with the knowledge that we’re heading back to India and our jobs in just a few days.

That said, the summer wasn’t a total bust here at the lake. Looking back at my photos, I realized we had a few good times.

Flare Night
This annual event includes a big party at our neighbor’s house, followed by everyone lining their lakefront property with road flares and lighting them at 10 p.m. We shook things up a bit by adding glowsticks to the mix.





Fireworks Night
Lake Orion put on a smashing show this year! During the day, we were happy to have our usual cookout and lake time with the usual guests (geez, I didn’t take any photos of the Grays) and special visitor, Cami.










Family Tine
As always, I was super excited to spend time with my family, especially the growing gaggle of nephews.




















There is ONE big drawback to having little boys at your house all the time.

As the Summer of Stress draws to an end and as I read back over this post (and realize how whiny I sound), I must admit I feel pretty lucky. I have two days left in the States. My goal is to breathe in this fresh air, kiss and cuddle all the little people in my life, and feel grateful for summers off, no matter how chaotic they may be.

America, we gonna partay like it’s your birfday!

The Fourth of July festivities are always a little crazy at our lake. I don’t mean Katy-Perry-Last-Friday-Night-crazy like Independence Day used to be in Lake Orion’s glory days. I mean we light our flares too early and incur the wrath of local residents à la 2010. Or we have a hailstorm that cancels the fireworks display à la 2011. As for 2012, well, Michigan stupidly decided to pump up the economy by legalizing more lethal fireworks for stoners with empty beer bottles to shoot at their loser friends. Which they did.

The best part of our Independence Day celebration was WHO shared it with us! All my siblings were here, as well as two very dear friends from my days at Mannheim American High School in Germany. It’s the first time Tarren, Cami and I have been together since 1998. Tarren and her husband, Jim, flew in from St. Louis, and Cami drove from Virginia with her two kiddos, Quinn (11) and Denison (7).

BTW, I am the Zombie Godmother for Quinn and Den. Cami used to call me their Fairy Godmother, but Quinn and I decided that was lame.

Isn’t it the best when you just pick up where you left off with the special people in your life? That never ceases to amaze and thrill me.

As usual, Lake Orion’s celebrations started with Flare Night the Friday before July 4th. Everyone lit road flares – at 10 p.m. sharp – around the perimeter of the lake. I had brought a bunch of bindis from India for the ladies, but when Nico saw them, he wanted one, too, and before we knew it, he had stuck them on everyone. (Disclaimer: All good photos in this post were taken by Tarren and/or Jim; crappy photos were taken by me.)
Quinn helps Nico with his bindi.






Saturday night, we played with sparklers, snappers, snakes and other low-testosterone fireworks before traipsing to our neighbor’s peninsula for the lake’s fireworks show. For the record, extra-long sparklers are an extra-bad idea.
Quinn sparkles.


Quinn, Den and Nico play with sparklers while I have a coronary.

I like this shot because I think my fear is palpable.

Love this photo!

Boaters get ready for the REAL fireworks show.

We watched from shore, and Jim got some awesome shots!


Here are some other fave photos from our big reunion:

Nico checks in with Meg’s baby, due in late September.

BFFs. Cami and Tarren.

Jim at the lakefront.

Denison kayaks.

Kate, Tarren and moi.

Quinnster chillin’.

Nico and Denison giving the ubiquitous summer signal.

Hanging out at the Dickinson Resort pool.

Family reunion! The only one missing was Meg’s husband, Britt. My brother, Mike, and his wife, Summer, visited from Belgium.


Nephew Paul and Uncle Mike wear their American Embassy School shirts.

Sophie checks out her mom’s pretty hair and baby bump.

Flare Night Done Right

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905, making an observation about the development of human intelligence.

“Didja hear about those dumb**s newcomers on Bellevue Island who lit their flares too early?” – everyone at Lake Orion, Michigan, July 2010, referring to our bungling of the Flare Night tradition. (See details at https://www.dentsadventure.com/?p=1358)

July 1st was Flare Night. We were determined to do it up right this year. I even insisted on buying an awesome Deluxe Screened Gazebo,” which Tony and I erected early in the day. Piece of cake.

Yeah, Tony did most of the work.

The Deluxe Screened Gazebo was a big hit!

Our neighbors, Kim and David, have property that juts out into the water with perfect views of the red lakerimeter glow, so they throw a big Flare Night party every year. Their home dates to 1901 and captures the spirit of Americana we feel on this Independence Day weekend.

Kim’s Kandy Store was the highlight of the night for the kids.

The rest of us didn’t get the memo about wearing lime green polo shirts. Our neighbor Mark and my dad (right) apparently did.

Unlike last year, we waited until 10 p.m. to light our flares. We had a good condescending laugh at some new residents across the cove whose flares blazed crimson in premature isolation. Dummies. (It’s so nice not to be THOSE people for once.)

John and Tony light our flares.

The view from our front porch.

We popped back over to the neighbor’s peninsula for a quick look at the rest of the lake, but we loved our own little spot so much that we settled back into the Deluxe Screened Gazebo till the sparkling flares burned out.

Happy birthday, America!

Our little island does not mess around when it comes to celebrating Independence Day.

Friday was Flare Night. We didn’t really know what that meant, but we inferred that we were supposed to buy enough road flares to line our lakefront. What time? My sister, Kate, had heard we should light them at 7:30 p.m. The sun was still blazing brightly at that time, so it seemed ridiculous to light the flares. None of us had done any real research on this Bellevue Island tradition.

My parents, sisters, bros-in-law, and nephews joined Tony and me to play in the lake all afternoon and wait for the mysterious flares to light up. We began to think it was a practical joke on the dumb newcomers to the neighborhood. As the sun set around 9:45, my mom just couldn’t wait anymore. “Light the *@#% flares!” she said. “We need to get the kids to bed!”

Britt and John got to work sinking the flares in to the ground through pieces of aluminum foil (to protect the grass – a tip from our friendly neighbor, Bob). We lit the flares and reveled in the red glow, expelling a collective sigh of relief as we saw the rest of the shoreline light up minutes later.

The next morning, the island was abuzz with gossip about the new dorks on Buena Vista who lit their flares 10 minutes early. We got the scoop from our tenant, Don, who had received a late-night phone call. How did everyone know to light them at 10 p.m.? We’re so out of the loop. Oh well …

John and Paul

Nico is very jumpy. He jumps off the dock to Britt.

He jumps over a beer bottle.

He jumps on Megan.

Nico counts beer bottles. He kept telling us to hurry up and finish our beers so he could add them to his collection.

Meg and Britt.

The Jimenez posse.

John and Britt succumb to mother-in-law pressure to light the flares.

Are you happy now, Mom? Everybody’s laughing at us.

Waiting for the rest of the lake to light up!

Saturday was the big Lake Orion fireworks show. By lunchtime, people in town were spreading out blankets and setting up lawn chairs to claim spots with the best views. At the lake, we pitched a little tent for shade and splashed in the water with family and a few friends. The Grays brought fishing gear and a kayak, which provided endless entertainment. Everyone contributed tasty treats to the picnic.

Although we had received invitations to several neighborhood parties, we had so much fun goofing around, eating and chatting that we didn’t leave our beach until it was time for the fireworks to start. At that time, we all grabbed a chair or mat and plodded next door to the gorgeous property of our neighbors, Kim and David. They live on a peninsula that offered perfect views of the fireworks and boat-filled lake.

After living in China for four years, I am not easily impressed by fireworks. However, some of our guests commented that these were the best they’ve ever seen, especially the finale. Tony and I shared a derisive giggle because we saw fireworks in Shanghai as loud and colorful as this finale, only they weren’t the finale. They went on like that for hours. However, we decided to celebrate that – unlike some countries – America pays workers a fair wage, allows fireworks sellers to make an honest profit, and imposes safety restrictions on the explosives, effectively limiting the size of local fireworks shows. Anyway, no fireworks show could bring me as much joy as sharing our home and lake with the people we care about.

Patrick fishes while his brother, Liam, kayaks.

John and Britt set up a little tent for shade.

Tony and Paulie.

The gang’s all here!

Taking turns with the kayak.




Pop and Gee in the tent.

Paulie jumps off the dock.

My new friend, Lisa, stops by on a party barge!

Nico loves watermelon!


Paulie plays with a velcro paddle and tennis ball (which fell apart well before the party wrapped up).

Liam teaches Nico how to fish.

Janelle brought by individually packaged jello shots, which my sisters seemed to enjoy.


Nico roasts marshmallows in the fire pit.

Nico shows off the sheriff’s badge he received from an officer making the rounds.

Paul and me.

Watching the fireworks from our neighbor’s yard. Patrick paddled the kayak around the peninsula for the show.

If this blog post has left you itching for more, check out my flickr.com photostream.