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.

Summering

The past few weeks have been really FULL for our family. Just a typical week is usually more than enough for me, but we’ve really been packing in the activities this summer, and I’ve struggled to find both the time (away from the attention of my Munchkins) and the energy to update. So forgive the lengthy blog post and take your time scrolling through the pictures. Who knows when I’ll get back on here to update again!

First of all, our Little Man is learning to walk. He took his first wobbly steps in June and has been slowly growing more confident and steady on his feet. He still prefers to walk on his knees, just like his sisters did for so long, and he can scurry around like lightening on all fours, but soon enough he’ll be keeping up with the rest of us all the way up on his feet. When he gets tired he starts to cry and looks around for Mommy, and if I put out my arms to him, Paul will scurry right over and grab on to pull himself up to both feet. (Also, we painted Paul’s room a few weeks ago, and you can get a glimpse of that in the picture below)

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The kids love to play outside, and they especially love to play with their Daddy outside! They squeal and run when he gets up and chases them like a bear, then giggle uncontrollably when he tackles them in the grass.

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Like most 16-month-olds, Paul likes to eat dirt.
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A few weeks ago, we packed up and headed North for the first time since Christmas. We had fun at the beach, and National Cherry Festival, and were able to stop and visit lots of family throughout our trip. (I didn’t get as many pictures with family because I was just too busy catching up to stop and take any.)

We took the kids to the downtown splash pad, then continued through to the Kid Zone at the Cherry Fest, and on to the Open Space.

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It’s amazing how much fun Little Ones can have just playing in a sandbox full of (clean) cherry pits!

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“Want some?”
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Lydia loved the free giveaways (sunglasses) and the free cherry samples.

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Paul too!

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And meeting Cherry Man!

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One morning we decided to drive up the peninsula to our favorite cherry picking farm. Much to our dismay, the farm had just sprayed all the trees and was closed for the day. We decided to keep driving to see if there was another farm. We ended up driving up the peninsula until we were so far along, it seemed silly to turn back. Eventually the open grape vineyards and cherry orchards were replaced with some Up North, Pure Michigan woods that brought me right back to my summers as a Camp Counselor.

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Funny enough, I was wearing a Camp t-shirt that day and happened to run into a family of other former Camp Counselors on Old Mission Peninsula. We had a nice little reunion before the rest of my family got out of our car to explore. We were met with this beautiful view.

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We meandered down to the beach and spent a while just enjoying the blue skies and clear water.

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Then we headed back in to Traverse City for some more Cherry Festival fun. Since this was our “vacation” for the summer, we splurged and let the girls ride their very first carnival rides. Abby thought she was pretty sweet getting to “drive” a car. And, much to our surprise, Lydia did not get scared on the Dumbo ride that she so eagerly wanted to ride on with Daddy. (Please note, we made sure Lydia and Daddy got to ride in the Dumbo and we let the girls wait in line an extra time so they could get the highly-sought-after purple car.)

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Our last full day in Traverse City was largely spent with some of my family at the same beach where I spent most of my summer days as a kid.

Abby felt so big lounging next to her Nana.

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And Abby and Paul both thought it was great fun to lounge in their cousin’s beach toy.

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My favorite part of the trip was jumping in the waves with Lydia. She’s a little dolphin, although she kept telling me she was a little penguin.

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We took advantage of our beach time by catching up with my oldest sister.

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Who also had the great idea to take a family picture for us. Thanks Christina!

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Afterwards, we treated the kids to dinner at a restaurant. Lydia thought it was especially cool that there were sandboxes to play in. Paul was too tired to care about much of anything. 🙂

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And so ended our trip Up North, but not our fun! The following week was “Camp Tikva”, our church’s annual Vacation Bible School Program. But maybe I’ll save those pictures for another post.

Birthday Princess (Lydia’s Fifth Birthday Celebration)

Five years ago on Memorial Day, Lydia Hope was born unexpectedly. Unexpectedly because, after a completely routine and healthy pregnancy, my water broke at only 30 weeks. Several hours later we had a baby. This year, Lydia’s birthday fell on Memorial Day again. It was her fifth birthday. And, for several reasons, this one felt like a big one. Since Dan had the day off and Lydia knew exactly what she wanted to do for her birthday, and since Dan and I knew exactly what Lydia would love for her birthday, we made the day a pretty epic celebration.

Dan greeted Lydia in the morning with a birthday tiara and a bouquet of orange roses, her current favorite flower. Dan has a tradition of getting his girls birthday flowers and he puts a lot of thought into getting them flowers that they will love.

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Then Dan and Lydia took off on their own for Lydia’s first Daddy-daughter date. They went to Leo’s, a coney island just down the road from us, and Lydia got to pick whatever she wanted from the menu. Now Lydia had been fighting this plan for weeks because she likes us all to be together and just couldn’t understand why Daddy had to take just her. Afterward she told Dan, “I didn’t think it was going to be fun, but it was.”

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When they got back, we surprised Lydia with a couple of small gifts. Gum, and nail polish. She’s been drooling over both for the past several months with no idea she could ever actually chew gum or wear nail polish. “Maybe when I’m sixteen?”, she would ask. Lydia’s not usually a good “reaction” girl. She takes in surprises slowly and gets excited a day or so later. The gum and nail polish must have been pretty good surprises then, because her reactions were priceless.

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After lunch and a quick (failed) attempt at naps, we packed up and headed to the splash pad for some more fun. I didn’t bring my camera with me, so you’ll have to use your imagination on this part. Abby was beside herself with excitement. She loves playing in water. Paul was uncertain and spent much of the time watching the kids play but keeping away from the water himself. Lydia was in and out of the water, torn between relaxing on her towel and running around getting wet.

Then we fulfilled Lydia’s requests for dinner: pizza and ice cream from restaurants. The first pizza place we tried was closed for Memorial Day, but we yelped “best pizza” in the area and found a winner. We got our meal to go and ate outside at our favorite ice cream place, a locally owned Dairy King in Plymouth. Paul was a trooper and didn’t complain once about his steamed broccoli and bananas while the other kids got pizza and ice cream.

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There’s a picture of me when I was about Lydia’s age, eating some sort of blue ice cream out of a cone while standing on a beach. I wish I had it to post along with this one. Ice cream all over my face. Like Mother, Like Daughter.

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It was late by the time we got home, but we finally let Lydia open her “official” present from us, a new (bigger) ballet leotard and tights. The girls danced around in their dress up clothes before finally getting ready for bed

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As Dan was tucking Lydia in, I heard her crying, “Today was the best day in the woooorrrlllddd. I don’t want it to end everrrr.” Good thing we’re Taylors. “It’s not just a birthday, it’s a celebration” is what we like to say, and the celebration continued over the next two days.

Tuesday Lydia got her presents from my mom and Dan’s Gramma. Abby had trouble understanding why they weren’t for her and Paul was disgusted at the amount of clothes Lydia was opening.

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And, finally, Wednesday tapered off the celebration with a visit from Dan’s parents, more presents, and sharing the news with Lydia that Grandma got a job in Ann Arbor and is moving down here!

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The birthday was a complete success, way too much fun for me to handle in a day, and a meaningful way for us to show Lydia how very thankful we are that God has given her to us, even it she was unexpectedly early.