Our Summer Family Staycation – Part 2

(You can read about the first half of our staycation here.)

Wednesday morning we got up early, loaded everyone into the van, and started driving straight West, to South Haven. I’d never been to South Haven before, and had heard good things about it. When our vacation budget started shrinking this winter (due to unexpected home repairs) we decided to stay home for vacation, but then I had the idea that we could spend one night somewhere on a beach and give the kids a couple of beach days on Lake Michigan. So, Dan booked a local hotel about as close to the beach as we could get and we planned a two day outing in South Haven.

When we got to town, we grabbed some lunch and headed straight for the beach. It was, after all, the whole reason we had come. Abby wasn’t too sure about the water, but Lydia loved it. Paul played in the sand, and eventually figured out that he could sit in the wet sand just close enough to the water to feel the waves hitting his legs. So that became his little home on the beach.

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Although we had mentally planned on spending the whole day at the beach, it turns out a whole day is too long for our family to do any one thing. Paul and Mommy, in particular were worn out and ready for a nap after about an hour in the sun. So we made the half mile trek to our hotel and checked in. The hotel was fantastic, and I was so glad I let Dan talk me into staying in one of the local ones closer to the beach. As it was, we spent a LOT of time walking, but it was nice to just park the car and leave it in the parking lot for our whole stay.

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After a little rest in our hotel we explored downtown and grabbed some dinner. Then we headed back to the beach in time to watch the sun set. The kids loved playing in the sand, while Dad and Mom just relaxed on a bench and watched the sun go down over the water.

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As soon as the sun set, everyone cleared off the beach and our family called it a night. The next morning we got up early to get in a little beach time before naps and heading home. It wasn’t that early, but we still got the whole beach to ourselves. It was just us and the sea gulls.

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On our way out of town, we stopped to go blueberry picking. We had high hopes of picking three buckets. Soon, however, we realized the girls would not be able to fill their own bucket. So, we set our hopes on picking two full buckets. Then we realized how long it takes to pick blueberries and how impatient our children were becoming. We set Abby and Lydia to work picking blueberries to feed to Paul while Dan and I picked as fast as we could and left exhausted with just under one bucket of blueberries.

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Not to worry, though. One bucket of blueberries is enough to eat several hand-fulls, to make two blueberry desserts and blueberry waffles, and to freeze some for snacking later. (Our family loves to eat frozen blueberries for a treat).

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Friday was a day of rest. Apart from making waffles and taking afternoon naps, we didn’t really do anything but stay home. Saturday was going to be our grand-finale: a day at the splash pad. When the time came, we got into the car just in time to hear thunder and feel the first rain drops of a storm. We went to the splash pad anyway, hoping the storm would pass quickly. Then we sat in the parking lot listening to the thunder, watching the lightening, and discussing how irresponsible it would be to let our kids play on the splash pad with lightening in sight. We finally decided to drive to Plymouth and walk around instead, once the storm lightened up. It didn’t seem like a day for the splash pad, after all.

The rain was pretty much done by the time we got to Plymouth, and, as it turned out, there was a free event going on where the kid could do activities and pick out prizes. So, the kids got their prizes and we had a special dinner out followed up by dessert with Grandpa.

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We made it home late and fell into bed, exhausted, but pleased that our staycation was a success.

Taylor Staycation 2015

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The big news in our family is that Dan will be starting a brand new job on June 8! His last job went well for a while but gradually the requirements began to change until he was doing work he didn’t enjoy. Finally it became obvious that it was time to find a different job and he began applying to various positions. As it turned out, he received two offers at the same time and we had a stressful weekend trying to decide between the two. The decision came down to simply praying about it and Dan settled on a new job as a quality engineer for a car company.

All this is to say that Dan is off work from now until June 8, so we’ve decided to fill the remaining days with fun family activities close to home. To kick off our fun times, we took a trip out to our favorite downtown: Plymouth. We had to go there so I could get some more pictures at our favorite Plymouth fountain, carrying on the tradition from the past two years.

2013:
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2014:
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2015:
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Lydia and Abby, 2014:
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Lydia, Abby, and Paul, 2015:
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We have a lot more fun coming, including Lydia’s fourth birthday party, a trip to Greenfield Village, and some other surprises. I’ll do my best to take some pictures so you can all share in the fun.

Playgrounds and Fountains

Last week, as the Fourth of July approached, we had no plans at all for how we would spend the holiday. When we woke up on Friday, we still had no plans (to my knowledge). So, after Lydia got up, Dan read to her and Abby and then told me his idea for how we would spend the day. As it turned out, the day ended up being full and fun, a perfect holiday and a wonderful start to Dan’s three day weekend.

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After breakfast we packed up the diaper bag and headed out. First stop was just a drive-by of a house we though we might want to take a look at. It turned out to be no good, so we were glad not to waste our time scheduling a real viewing. We stopped at a nearby park where Lydia burned off some energy and practiced hanging from the rings. Abby chilled in the grass and looked super cute while she was at it.

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When we started to get hungry we loaded back into the car and drove by another house and decided not to schedule a viewing for that one either (it was right on the highway and the traffic was just way too loud). Then we pit-stopped for lunch outside. We happened to be right next to a Meijer, and, as watermelons were on sale this week, decided to add watermelon to our dinner menu for later that night. Dan picked out the best melon in the store and Lydia had an exciting ride on Sandy.

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I think it was about this time when Dan changed our plans a little and we spontaneously decided to visit downtown Plymouth. We spent some time there last Labor Day, before Abby was born, and had a good time so we decided to repeat the adventure.

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Something you may or may not know about me is that I’m pretty good at taking selfies of Dan and myself…except when you can see the reflection in the window behind us. 🙂

One of the places you must visit if you’re ever in Plymouth is the fountain. So we did. Lydia loved it and probably couldn’t remember that she had visited the same fountain less than a year ago.

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Maybe we’ll go back every year and take a picture of the kiddos at the fountain.

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After the fountain, we made our way over to a quiet grassy area of downtown Plymouth set aside to celebrate our freedom and remember those who have sacrificed for it. We reviewed our nation’s wars, danced in the grass, made some friends, and showed Lydia the cannon. Abby just smiled and watched with those clear blue eyes of hers.

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The last time we were here I lost and found my camera. This visit someone stole my purse.

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I got it back though.

We wrapped up our outing by another visit to an old favorite playground. Even though we went to this playground almost every day last summer, Lydia didn’t remember it at all. It’s where we took the much beloved “tunnel picture” of Lydia.

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It was almost dinner time and I had to go for a run (to keep up with my 5K training), so we called it a day and headed home. After a successful 20 minute run we had another picnic outside followed up, of course, with Meijer’s best watermelon. It was a full, fun, and wonderful day. As the sun set, Dan and I picked out old patriotic favorites to play on the computer for Lydia, then we really called it a day. No fireworks for this family! Maybe next year.

Anniversary Date

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During the past week, Dan and I realized a few different things:

1. We had yet to take our belated anniversary date
2. A recent doctor’s visit revealed the first warning sign that Baby 2 could be born early
3. The next four or five weekends are all full (weddings, moving, church events)

We concluded that if we wanted to get in our special date before Baby 2 is born, we were going to have to take it on Saturday. (We realized this on Saturday morning)

After a few quick phone calls, Dan had made arrangements for a family from church to watch Lydia for us all afternoon. This was only the second time that we had left Lydia with anyone ever. And, it was the very first time we’d left Lydia with anyone to go out on a date, just the two of us. Was I excited?

I was excited.

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So we dropped the Munchkin off and soon she was happy playing with her friends from church. To be honest, there was a part of me that wondered if it’d feel weird not having her with us. I even wondered if we would run out of things to talk about. When we got back in the car, there was a moment of silence and we realized we hadn’t driven anywhere together without Lydia since she came home from the hospital over two years ago.

Soon, however, we were chatting away and the GPS on Dan’s phone, Waze, was taking us back to downtown Plymouth for our date. We were well on our way to the restaurant when all of a sudden I glaced up to see a ferris wheel in the center of the road! To our surprise, this weekend also happened to be the Plymouth Fall Festival, a relatively huge carnival that takes place right in the heart of Plymouth. So, we ditched our plans to sit by the lovely fountain (because of the extremely loud music, crowds of high school couples, and cheerleaders) and found a cozy little bench just outside of all the activity.

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On our way to this bench, we noticed some obscenely large stuffed animals, and kids abducting aliens (a funny twist you don’t often hear about, we thought). Anyway, we enjoyed just sitting on a bench, not carrying a diaper bag, not chasing a toddler, free to chat away for more than three minutes without interruption.

Don’t get me wrong. We love Lydia. We love having her around. We love chasing her around. And we get plenty of time to talk when she’s napping, in bed, in the car, or during meal times. But, well, we loved this too.

Eventually we decided to head over to our chosen restaurant, a highly recommended Italian place. We opted to sit inside to escape the Festival noises, and enjoyed a much longer and much more expensive dinner than we usually eat. Everything was delicious. And I particularly enjoyed sitting and waiting for the waiter to bring the bill because that meant I wasn’t trying to entertain a Munchkin with a much shorter attention span than her parents.

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After dinner, Dan offered to buy me a frozen lemonade or other treat of my choice. Having spent a lot of money already, I opted for our favorite not too expensive Starbucks drink (I’ll tell you all what that is in a later post). There are three flavors to choose from and (don’t get weirded out), the green one actually tastes the best.

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Our two-hour parking limit was about to run out, so we drove back to a park near the home where Lydia was having the time of her life without us. (For someone who never gets left with anyone, separation anxiety is definitely not a problem for her) We walked a little, and found a picnic table where some child had forgotten his or her stuffed animals. Both of us found it humorous that even without the Munchkin, we were hanging out at a playground.

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So we wrapped up our date chatting away, and sitting in the quiet, enjoying some uninterrupted time together as the sun was just starting to sink in the sky, making everything glow in a way that reflected the happiness of the day. Our third anniversary date was belated, and it wasn’t exactly what we’d planned, but it was absolutely perfect.

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Labor Day Adventures

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Dan had the day off for Labor Day on Monday, and we were able to enjoy our first day-off as a family without traveling since Dan graduated! The day started with some sleeping in, a late breakfast, and then plan-making for the rest of the afternoon.

We decided to check out downtown Plymouth, since we’re planning on moving soon and had never gotten around to spending some time down there. It’s a lot like downtown Traverse City (where we grew up), but bigger.

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We walked the streets, looked in the windows, and pushed Lydia in her stroller. Eventually we came to the fountain, and took a nice break there sitting in the shade and watching kids walk around the edge of the fountain and then sneak in when their parents weren’t looking.

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After a while, we continued our walk, touring all the streets of downtown Plymouth. We ended up in a historic area, where we gave Lydia a history lesson on the American wars. Dan and I remembered an embarrassingly small amount of information about any of the wars. So much for straight A’s. Dan’s side of the family is somehow related to Abraham Lincoln (17th cousins or something like that) so we were sure to get a shot of Lydia with Abe. See any resemblance?

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It was pressing in on nap time and we still hadn’t eaten lunch, but we made another stop at Starbucks to get some free drinks (story to come later…). Dan got an iced coffee and Lydia and I shared a smoothie as we headed back to the fountain one last time. However, just as I was about to take a picture of our smoothie-sharing, I realized my camera was gone!

We retraced our steps back to Starbucks. No camera. Then we went all the way back to Abe, where I thought I may have forgotten it on a bench. But there was the bench, and no camera. Just than a tall man ran up and asked us if we had lost our camera! This kind gentleman (Jerry) had turned it in to the police station. So after a while of knocking on doors and snooping around the station (which was pretty deserted), Jerry found us an officer who located our missing camera. That ended the trip on a very happy note and we headed back home for lunch and naps.

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The weather was absolutely perfect, so Dan worked on his computer outside and, after a long nap myself, I joined him. When Lydia woke up we all headed to the playground, where Lydia mastered the tunnel-slide, and then went down it 13 times, insisting that Dan follow her down every single time. We spent a good long while at the playground and, when everyone was satisfied, made our way back home for dinner. After a couple innings of baseball (our current Monday night tradition while Lydia gets ready for bed), we tucked Lydia in.

Then I gave Dan his first violin lesson, which went really well. I’m thinking of giving violin lessons from home starting sometime after Baby is born, but I’ve never taught before. Dan has very little music education, so he is a perfect first student. And so far, he does great. We’ve had two lessons in a row and he’s been practicing in the mornings.

So, after mastering the “D string”, we watched a little more baseball, and stayed up far too late talking. (Dan really is a happy camper on his days off) Eventually we had to call it a night. I can’t remember ever having a more full and happy Labor Day.

Life in Chaos

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Transitions

Last April, Dan graduated with his Master’s degree and we were both so excited to move off campus, get settled, and begin life without school. In May, we moved into a spacious two bedroom condo that was conveniently located right next door to Dan’s work. It was wonderful. After a while, though, we realized that there was a serious problem with the condo (mold was our guess) and it was making us, Dan in particular, sick.

In one week we searched for another place, any place, that could take us immediately and that brought us to the lovely town of Plymouth. While our Plymouth home is beautiful, it has its downsides too. It’s a long commute for Dan to get to work, especially when he already has to sit at a computer for eight hours a day, adding on another hour or two of driving hasn’t gone too well.

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Unpacking

My biggest struggle, though, has been the unpacking. This place is fully furnished, which means there’s just no room for all of our stuff. Well, that’s not true. We have found room for all of our stuff, but there’s not room to unpack and really move in. So all summer, I have felt like I’ve been living in chaos.

The laundry room, stairwell, and corner of the living room are full of boxes. Lydia’s room, which is actually an office, now looks like an office that got into a fight with a playroom. Half of our clothes are unpacked, and a lot of them are sitting in piles on open shelves in our bedroom, in boxes on the floor, and on top of storage containers on the floor of our closet. I can’t get to my cleaning supplies, my measuring cups, or our water pitcher. I can’t find the iron. Oh, and my nice organized collection of very important documents ended up in storage.

To add to the chaos, I’ve been off of my routine ever since my first trimester, when nausea prevented me from doing much of anything. I thrive on a schedule, but my schedule went out the window back in May with the first move. Without it, I was getting nothing done, and getting frustrated in the process.

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Time for a Change

So, I sat down a while back to pray about things. And then I set some goals to tackle one at a time:

1. Go to bed earlier
2. Wake up earlier – pack Dan’s lunch and get him breakfast, and actually see him before        he leaves for the day
3. Take shorter naps
4. Get outside at least once a day with Lydia
5. Unpack one box a day

How did it go?

Well, it has been about a month since I set my goals. So how have I been doing? Well, I tackled the first one and started getting to bed earlier. About a week later I asked Dan to start waking me up when he’s getting ready in the mornings. We’ve settled into a lovely little routine to start each day, which makes the schedule-dependent-mommy in me happy. I succeeded at shortening and sometimes even eliminating my naps, but that one feels like cheating because I’ve been feeling so much better in my second trimester anyway. Lydia and I get outside almost every day, unless it’s raining. In fact, our day up to lunch has become pretty predictable, again, making me happy. As for unpacking, well, I gave that one up long ago. There’s just no point. Once I got things clean enough to host Leslie’s bridal shower, I decided it was good enough and that I’d just have to suffer through the rest of the chaos until we move.

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How much longer?

I would love to know the answer to that one! Dan and I have a signed lease at some nice Ann Arbor apartments and we are tentatively scheduled to move in on September 6. However, we have also applied for a mortgage through our bank and are waiting to hear back from them. If it’s a “yes”, we’ll begin our search for a house, stay where we are until we find one, and then work our way through the complicated process of buying.

In the meantime, I’m sticking to my routine – even if it isn’t as regular as I like. I’m using Mr. Jenkins’ (our landlord) old plastic liquid measuring cup (with half the numbers worn off) for all of my cooking measurements. And I’m continuing to remind myself of the ways God has provided – this home, and all of our previous ones! I’m thankful for a flexible landlord, and a diligent husband who works hard to find us a place that will really feel like home. So life goes on, more chaotic than I would like, but completely in God’s control. We’re, as always, learning to trust as we wait.