Wordful Wednesday: The Cottage is the Thing Pt. 2

We had such a fun time up north in Oscoda with my family and Michael’s family this summer. You can read and check out all the sights in this POST.

Late in the afternoon on Father’s Day Michael and his family drove back home (cause they all had to work). So it was just my mom, my two sisters, my two daughters and me.

We had 7 incredible days of just the ladies. It was heavenly. Nothing like living with all your female relations to remind you that this is why people stayed close to home and lived in the same villages if not homes as the rest of their family. It DOES take a damn village to raise your babies and if that village is populated with people you love and trust…well…then Mommy gets to drink a lot more Lime-a-Rita’s and whiskey on her vacay.

Seeing my daughters interact with my sisters is just incredible. And I’m reminded of how lucky I am not only to have sisters, but to have MY sisters. Tracey and Kylara are like my twins and yet totally different from me. Tracey knows me better than I know myself. And to see them with Ella & Izzie…how much they teach them, how much the girls love and cherish each moment with their Aunties.

I mean Kylara just LOVES these kids. And she helped me out so tremendously. I’m so proud of the responsible and caring 17 woman she’s become. She is just the sweetest and most loving Auntie ever. Oh yea, and they call her Ky-la-la.

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And then there’s this…Grandma and Iz. They are so funny together. This makes my heart swell. I love them so.

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Every time we go to Oscoda we go to Dinosaur Gardens. If you’ve been there once you understand. There’s something so off and yet so fun about it. Sure there’s a random statue of Jesus in the ‘heart’ of the Brontosaurus and sinners in it’s tail (I know…that’s not even a real dinosaur which makes it even better). But it’s kitchsy road-side-attraction at it’s finest. If Neil Gaiman had visited here it would have been a setting in American Gods.

Turns out the good folks over at Connie’s Cafe have bought Dinosaur Gardens and are revamping the place while still keeping it’s original campy charm. Which means the place was sprayed for mosquitoes…

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But there’s still these awesome nude-butt cave men. Win. Win. And yes…I touched the butt.

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How cute are me and Ella with our babies in their carriers? It was really cute. Until she didn’t want to carry her baby anymore and had a meltdown and threw Mia and the carrier and I threatened to throw them in the garbage. Ugh. That sucked. Someone really needs to teach this kid that you can’t just put your baby down when you’re tired of her. Sheesh.

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I’m telling you…special bond between these two. And they walk at exactly the same pace. SLOWEST.

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That’s a T Rex y’all. Look out!!

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After Dinosaur Gardens we headed for lunch at Connie’s Cafe. Home of the GIANT cinnamon rolls. Also home of the Best Pot Roast Ever (according to pot roast lover Grandma). It was so so yummy. Glad to have finally had a meal there and enjoyed meeting Connie and her husband.

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We took another day trip to Ocqueoc Falls, the ‘largest’ falls in the lower peninsula. Yea…it wasn’t really what we had pictured.

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But we enjoyed the scenery for a while.

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And even took a mini-hike through the woods. In our Converse. Yea…we really weren’t planning ahead for this day.

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And of course no family of proper Librarians could miss a trip to the local library on their trip.

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Nothing like chillin out and reading books on the beach…

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Izzie grew into her Pisces soul on this trip. She IS a water baby, just like her sister. Freezing or not they loved it.

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Playing in the perfect sand. She could dig all. Day. Long.

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Don’t mind the ‘Assests’ folks. This swimsuit top was perhaps a bit obscene for a family day at the beach, no?

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I love her. I really do. Except there are times I want to choke her out. Kidding… Sort of.

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But what we did a whole lot of is what we do best as a family. Eating and shopping. Seriously I think our entire days revolved around what we were going to eat. It was awesome. Also, I think I went to the local Goodwill 3 times in 7 days. I will forever call it ‘Best Goodwill Ever’. I found Hanna Andersson and Tea Collection dresses for $1 and a brand new Target purse for $12. SCORE!

Spaghetti dinner was a big success. Even Cedella ate her pasta with gusto.

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And played little mommy helping clean up her sister’s face.

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The most special part of the day though is the camp fire. My Mom lives for the camp fire. She’d have a camp fire every single day of her life if she could.

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Most nights we went down to the fire pit after the girls went to bed. We had some proper mother/daughter/sister bonding time. It was really nice. You just sit, enjoy the trance of the fire and tell stories and eat marshmallows. Love these ladies!!  IMG_2781

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But I really wanted my girls to experience the fire, learn some safety and dig on some S’mores. And then Cedella had her first squishy fire-melted marshmallow. And this happened…

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Total freak out. It was hot and melty and sticky and she was thoroughly grossed out and upset about it. What little kid doesn’t like S’mores? My kid. Weirdo.

But she rallied and really enjoyed the Hobo Pies and other fire roasted yummies.

How awesome to be able to have this uninterrupted time with my girls and my siblings and my Mom. I am one lucky mama.

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Hope you had fun going on our Up North adventure with us. If you’re looking for a really lovely place to stay on Lake Huron please considering renting a place from Perfect Landing. Their units are all clean and up to date and their beaches are pristine.

I mean just look at this place…Our little slice of Pure Michigan heaven.

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I already can’t wait for next year!! What is your summer family tradition? Do you have a place or cottage you go to every year?

More summer travels to come next week for Wordful Wednesday as I recap our family trip to Chicago!! Happy Wednesday folks!!

 

 

 

 

Last Days of Summer

Well summer is coming to a close and we had our last vacation of the summer with my family up north on Lake Huron.  It was super cloudy and not very warm, but we still had a very relaxing and fun time.  Cedella got to spend time with her newest little cousin Brayden, and practiced her kissing skills.  She also got her first taste of sand and the freezing waters of Lake Huron.  We got to spend some serious quality time with my mom, Grandma Linda.  It was so nice to be with her, cooking, shopping and catching up.  My Aunt Joanne made awesome lasagna and brownies.  Lauren and I talked all about being new moms.  And on top of it all I got to hang with my teenage sister and her friend Lisa and talk about who is hotter…Taylor Lautner or Justin Bieber (btw Taylor Lautner gets my vote since Justin Bieber looks like a girl).

All in all it was a great way to wind down the summer and get back into my blog that I have been neglecting as of late.  Look forward to new editions to the blog like ‘Foodie Fridays’ and ‘My Big Fat Mixed Family’ coming soon.  But until then, enjoy the pics…

Walking on the beach
Kylara and Lisa
Watching the waves
Cool dolphin swing
Meeting Brayden for the first time
Giving kisses
 Baby in the mirror
With Grandma Linda at the fire
Beach Baby
Mmmmmm…sand
Freezing in Lake Huron in August
Passed out in her Peapod
Cedella dying to give Brayden more kisses

How to Tent Camp with a Baby

For those of you who are just getting to know me through this blog let me tell you a little secret…I was a teenage Girl Scout.  Yes, it’s true.  I was still wearing a uniform and camping when I was 17.  My very first trip without my parents was when I went to sleep-over camp when I was 6.  Our family camped a lot.  Even my Dad, not the most ‘outdoorsy’ type, went tent camping on a couple of occasions.  My brother, the least fond of nature in our family, was a Boy Scout for a summer, until a bee stung him on a camping trip (he’s allergic).  So it would have been a deal-breaker if Michael wasn’t into camping.  Thankfully he is and shares my desire for our children to grow up outside, enjoying nature and celebrating the calm and peace that camping brings.   

Now I know it may seem crazy to take a not-quite-6-month-old tent camping.  I don’t think we would have attempted our trip if Cedella wasn’t such a good baby.  Every year we spend a weekend with our close friends Tim and Amie at a different campsite.  All four of us really look forward to it.  Last summer I was pregnant so we stayed close to Traverse City in northern Michigan and took it easy.  This summer since we knew Cedella would be with us, so we chose to stay close to home and near Lake Michigan.  
Here’s my top 10 tips on how to tent camp with a baby and survive:
1. Pick a family-friendly campground within a short distance to town.  We went to Hoffmaster State Park near Muskegon.  We were about 4 miles from civilization and a hospital.  Just in case.  I’m not one to worry a lot about what if’s, but it did comfort me to know that if something did happen we weren’t that far from care.  Ella was never in danger of needing an ER but the guys on the other hand burned themselves with such frequency that I’m glad we were close.    
2. Don’t schedule too much and go with your baby’s flow.  This is a good rule of thumb for parenting in general, and is how I manage most of our days anyways (which I’m convinced is why Ella is such a chill baby) but it seems to be extra important on vacation.  In previous years we have canoed, kayaked, hiked and swam, but this time we just relaxed, cooked something, took an occasional walk to the beach, cooked some more, hung out around the camp fire, ate some marshmallows, read a book and cooked something else.    
3. Forget the Pack N Play it’s all about the PeaPod.  Perhaps this should have been #1 on this list.  This thing is genius.  A Mama from my birthing class told me about this and I rushed right out and picked one up at Babies R Us.  The best $40 on baby stuff I’ve ever spent (that’s with the 20% off coupon and a $5 off coupon I’ve been saving up).  It’s a pop-up tent for a baby that is primarily mesh sides (protecting them from bugs), a solid top (to provide some shade), and a little air mattress (to be super comfy).  It sets up in seconds, can be moved around the campsite easily and fits right at the end of our air mattress in our tent.  It folds up into a really small bag, so instead of lugging around a huge Pack N Play from now on the PeaPod is coming with us.  
4.  Don’t forget to put a tarp over your tent in case it rains.  It’s summer in Michigan.  You know it’s only a matter of time before it rains.  If you don’t want to wake up in a pond, after you set up your tent, throw a tarp over it and stake it down.  Thankfully we did.  There was a massive thunderstorm our second night in.  Thunderstorm is too gentle a word to describe what we experienced.  Both Michael and I were shocked awake by the lightning that appeared to be striking every tree around our site, and the thunder that crashed around us like a Mack truck had just jack knifed into the 9 Mile bridge on I-75.  The battle of the gods occuring in the sky was so scary that we both sat there and whispered as to whether or not we should make a run for it and hop in the car.  Cedella slept through the whole damn thing her PeaPod. When she finally did wake up, we put her in between us and she went right back to sleep.  That thing is amazing.  But thanks to the lovely tarps above and below our tent we stayed dry (if terrified).
5. Bring plenty of extra keg cups.  There’s no alcoholic beverages ‘allowed’ at Michigan state campgrounds.  That of course doesn’t mean that everyone doesn’t indulge.  That’s what the good people in the plastics industry invented keg cups for.  You can put anything in there and it looks like you’re drinking, well, anything.  We only had a dozen, and since they don’t wash well, we kind of had a couple of greasy drinks.  Next time we will bring a few more sleeves of these.  And did I mention that they make a great teething toy in a pinch?   
6. Don’t bother with the Hooter Hider.  You’re outside dammit!  I don’t think this needs much elaboration.  It’s natural to breastfeed your baby and you’re outside enjoying nature.  Now I’m not saying one should go topless at the campground (apparently it’s frowned upon) but nothing wrong with getting out in the open and going au natural and uncovered for a change.
7.  Sunscreens and hats are your friend.  Babies under 6 months aren’t supposed to have sunscreen, but you know what?  They only tell parents that so they will dress and cover their infants more accordingly.  Sunscreen and a sunhat are the best way to protect your baby on a shadeless beach (well an umbrella would probably work wonders too but that’s too much shit to carry to the beach).  I say bring the PeaPod along.  And for crying out loud…whether you’re 5 months or 32 years old…put on some sunscreen, wear a hat and put on more sunscreen every half hour or so…or you will get burned.   
8.  Keep in mind this is a family vacation and not a single dude’s trip.  This one is for the fathers.  Please remember that this is a vacation for both you and your wife.  By splitting the parenting 50/50 you both get to relax half of the time as opposed to one of you getting to relax 90% of the time.  Everyone will enjoy themselves and have more fun.  And the Mom voice won’t have to be used.  The Mom voice has a way of ruining the fun times.  I’m just sayin’…
9.  Sit back and enjoy yourself.  Let someone else hold your child (or ::gasp:: put her to sleep).  Take a walk while caring your baby and watch her as she discovers amazing things like pine trees, song birds and sand.  Read almost 100 pages in your book club book (I haven’t read that much that quickly in months).   Laugh with your spouse about ways to avoid having to run to the bathrooms in the thunderstorm.  Pretend your underage by pouring all of your beer and Jack into keg cups.  Know that you are helping your child to know our landscape and give her a sense of wonder for the world.  
10.  Never sing “I Love Jesus” to the tune of “La Bamba” so all your camping neighbors can hear you.  This is tent camping not vacation bible school.  And a double whammy if you’re a really shitty acoustic guitar player.  Which this lady was.  It was almost enough to drive us all completely insane.  All but Cedella.  She rarely stopped smiling, even when she was asleep.  She’s just a good baby.
We had a really fabulous trip.  The weather was beautiful, the lake was almost warm and my little Monk is a natural camper.  Can’t wait for our next adventure…  
P.S.  Give me some comment love if you would like to hear more about packing, cloth diapering in the woods and whatnot.  Let me know and perhaps I’ll write about that in the future.