Traverse City: Wrap-Up


Well, we’re home!  I was too tired/lazy the last couple days of the trip to write anything, so now that we’ve been home for a day (two days–I wrote most of this yesterday and am now posting it), I am ready to recap things.  Our last full day we had warmer weather and sunshine, so we parked downtown and just walked around.  Clinch Park was lovely, with a nice beach and fountains for kids to play in.  We weren’t really up for swimming as the water was pretty chilly, but enjoyed walking along the bay shore.  The downtown was also fun to explore.  We browsed in a bookstore and had lunch in a neat little sandwich shop called The Dish, where the food was delicious and service extremely friendly.


Later, after Liam had his nap, we took him for one more swim in the pool and went to dinner at Schelde’s, another casual diner-y place near our hotel.  Our Hampton Inn was fine, but the location wasn’t very convenient for going downtown.  We still found good places to eat within a five-minute drive, though.  We noticed that we always are seated near the kitchen–they must recognize little kids won’t be the quietest patrons! And yes, Liam did have fun tossing his toys and food and water cup on the floor:).  It was a good thing we chose not to risk one of the cute little French bistros–his antics might have bothered anyone seeking a private, romantic dinner experience!


There are definitely some things we’d like to do if we ever return to TC.  Kayaking or canoeing, touring wineries and breweries, dining in finer restaurants…those are things that just don’t work very well with a toddler.  We had a blast showing him new things and places, and we are okay with the fact that in many ways, we’re limited now that Liam is in our lives.  It is still only for a short time, relatively, and we want to appreciate the years while he’s little!

Thankfully, we didn’t stay past Friday…during our final night there, we had some noisy hotel neighbors.  A man was very loudly complaining about his food not being what he ordered, swearing about it at midnight.  We were really irritated for a few minutes until we finally managed to get the A/C running steadily and loudly enough to cover up the sound of his voice.  I guess we were fortunate the rest of the week to have fairly quiet hall neighbors!  And we were so glad that Liam didn’t cry much at night, so we didn’t have to worry about being “those” people ourselves.

The trip home on Friday was looooooong…we took 31 south all the way to Grand Haven, which was a two-lane highway much of the time, and took a lot longer than we’d hoped.  GH was our planned stop because my brother and his family live there.  It was relaxing to just hang out with him and his wife and three of their four kids for a few hours.  Liam loves the attention his cousins always shower upon him.

From Grand Haven, we had another four hours or so to drive.  It seemed like we needed to stop a bunch of times and it took much longer than it should have.  Liam only napped for an hour, and then seemed crabby enough that I decided to sit in back with him, to keep him company.  That helped his mood as he was not so bored or lonely.  We did finally arrive home around ten, so tired.

Today has been a recovery day.  Everyone always needs a vacation from their vacation, right?  We are so glad we were able to get away as a family with only minor inconveniences and frustrations.  On to the next journey!



Traverse City update

Yesterday was pretty low-key.  We took the kiddo for a stroll along the shore and let him play on the playground there.  In the afternoon, a leisurely drive to see the Mission Point lighthouse was lovely.  After a swim, dinner was at Red Lobster.  I know, it’s lame to eat at chain places when you’re on a trip, but in our defense, we have four nights here, and we had a gift card to use.  It had been too long since I had Cheddar Bay biscuits!  Liam charmed our waitress and all of the others, dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”.

IMGP1477playing on the slide

IMGP1531at the Mission Point Lighthouse beach

IMGP1562Red Lobster

Wednesday–what a fun day!  We decided to venture out of town a bit and check out the Sleeping Bear Dunes, just about a half-hour drive away from us. The morning began overcast and cool, and only got colder as the day continued (down to around 55 at one point, and very windy).  Thank goodness we wore our jeans and brought extra warm clothes for Liam!  He snoozed a little on the way to the dunes, but woke up when we stopped at the Visitors’ Center.  He oohed and aahed at the little museum display inside, showcasing various wildlife of the area including a cougar, owl, and beaver.  (Fake ones, but he still gets super excited to see them!).  Since he loved looking around there so much, we ended up getting him a small stuffed bear as a souvenir of his first family vacation.  He hugged it tight and loved holding it as we drove the few miles further to get to the actual dunes.

I had heard the story of the Sleeping Bear dunes years ago.  I believe my nieces and nephews received a picture book telling about a mama bear and her two cubs who didn’t quite survive the journey with her.  We opted to go directly to the dune climbing area rather than do the scenic drive.  We took turns carrying our own little cub as we climbed this steep wall of sand.  It was just beautiful, both while climbing and at the top.  We foolishly looked at the backpack we’d brought before going up the dune, but decided to leave it in the car.  After all, why would one want bottled water or an extra sweatshirt or a snack after making an arduous sandy climb?  Yeah, we regretted that decision…oh well!  Nate was the tough guy and carried Liam the majority of the ascension.  I kept offering to take him, but he kept declining my help.  So I ran a little bit of the dune…yikes, that was a tough workout!  I wish I had been close to something like this back when I was coaching cross-country!  This place would be such an awesome hill workout for me and the kids!






So, we reached the top of the dune…and lo and behold, we could now see the next level of dunes!  So of course, being a bit competitive with myself, I insisted we push ahead and get to the next height.  The views from the top were breathtaking!  We couldn’t see more water from the second level, but a rugged, hilly, woodsy area.  It was great watching other visitors making the trek up the dunes, lots of small children running and racing each other, even an elderly woman hiking up with a cane and a helper.  She made it the whole way…we saw a man waiting at the bottom who said she was his extremely determined mother-in-law.


We thought Liam would be more interested in playing in the sand, but as soon as Nate tried to let him sit down, he pulled his feet up and his hands started shaking.  Maybe he just needs a bit more time to get used to this new stuff…he used to have the same reaction to grass, and now he’s fine with it.  Anyway, he was carried the whole way up and the whole way down the dunes.  By the time we reached the bottom again, it was getting awfully cold, so we put some more layers on the baby and grabbed our snacks from the car.  He loved the gulls as well.

After the dune climb, we drove a few miles down the road to a maritime museum and viewed some old boats and learned about Coast Guard history.  Lots of neat artifacts to see.


Little dude was worn out and slept on the trip back to the hotel.  Traffic getting back was awful-construction was blocking a lane right in front of the hotel, so it took awhile to get there from half a mile away.  Once there, though,  Liam slept another hour, so we all got some rest.

We chose a very casual diner-type place for dinner called The Cottage, and the food was delicious.  We rounded out the evening with a walk around the restaurant’s neighborhood, a short drive out of town, and ice cream at Sweet Treats, located where we got our pizza the first night.  Liam was so sleepy by the time we got to the ice cream shop, but perked up quickly at his first taste of ice cream.  Wow, he loved that and kept begging for more!

Seeing our son’s excited expressions every time he discovers something new is a joy.  He loves the simple things, evidenced by the way he coos every time the hotel elevator door opens.  He crawls around and gets into everything.  He loves to go after the hotel room drawers (some child locks would have been helpful, that’s for sure)!  Traveling with a toddler is definitely more of a challenge than without one, but it’s totally worth it.

Traverse City: Arrival!

Let me just say for the record: we have the best baby EVER!  He was such a trooper during our day of driving…nearly eight hours strapped in a car seat…took us at least a half an hour after getting to town before we found our hotel…hardly fussed or cried at all.  In fact, during the time he was awake (about half of the trip), he entertained himself with his books and toys and when my husband turned on Volbeat, he lit up like a firefly! (Yes, I’m stealing that line from “It’s a Wonderful Life”.) Anyway, the music thrilled our boy and he began clapping, kicking his legs, and smacking his legs to the beat.  Watching his big goofy grins and listening to his squeals of delight made us forget about how he had made us sit up with him from 2 until 3:30 this morning.

IMGP1458ready to leave!

Our drive was easy, without too much traffic for the most part.  A bit rainy here and there. A simple picnic lunch of cheese, bread, and fruit satisfied our appetites to keep us from succumbing to the temptations of fast food.  We made another quick stop for gas and when Nate came back from paying, he tried to get me to go in and buy something, too.  Why?  Because, he said, the cashier looked and talked exactly like little Joe’s male nanny from Modern Family.  Apparently the boy was very enthusiastic about helping him save money on his drink and candy.  While curious, I didn’t go in the store, so I guess I will just have to take Nate’s word for it!

IMGP1461C’mon, Dad! I can drive!

Anyway.  Back to the day…

You know that feeling of relief when you finally reach your destination? That’s what we experienced when we saw our hotel after changing directions several times in the city, just praying Liam’s good mood would hold out a little bit longer.  We really couldn’t believe he was so calm and happy, just singing to himself as we drove.  Of course our navigation system wasn’t working very well, so we couldn’t count on that to get us there.


Once in the room, with a clean diaper, the bambino was still just as happy as could be, crawling and toddling around the hotel room.  He is SOOOO close to walking on his own, and we’ve been poised with the camera for days trying to capture the moment when it does occur.  Maybe he will finally break free here in Michigan!

Pizza at the East Bay restaurant, just down the bay shore from the hotel a mile or so, tasted awesome.  Liam got to marvel at the wooden bear sculptures out front and the taxidermy display of wild animals inside the restaurant.  We watched everyone else who came to the place getting ice cream that looked delicious, but of course we did not have room for that after the pizza. A man came in with four children.  We overheard him talking to another fellow, telling him, “Yeah, I have three more at home.”  Wow.  Seven kids.  Bravo, man.  I cannot imagine trying to manage that many people 24/7.  Another TV-land connection: one of the guy’s kids was wearing nothing but a diaper and shoes.  Who knows the reference?  Oh yeah, it’s the little kid from the scary neighbor family down the street in The Middle.  Thankfully, this kid was not carrying around a baby bottle at age seven and swearing like a sailor.

To let Liam burn off some energy after sitting so much today, we had to try out the hotel pool.  It’s nice, there is a hot tub in the same room, but…the pool water is freezing.  We decided to go in anyway, and  Nate and I both even got ourselves fully submerged briefly.  I don’t very often get my husband into a pool, so it was nice he did it for Liam.  We helped the kiddo kick and splash around for a short time and then warmed him up with a bath in our room.  It must have worked, because he is sleeping angelically now, and didn’t fight sleep one bit tonight.

The bay waters here are sparkling and lovely.  I hope to get some photos added later in the week–sorry!

Trippin’ to Traverse City: The Preparation

At long last, the time has come for our first family vacation as a family of three!  We originally had planned on Myrtle Beach for a full week, but thanks to some confusion about the dates of the husband’s doctoral class, we canceled that.  By the time we realized we could still go away this week, our place in Myrtle Beach was booked, so we debated awhile over Florida, Kentucky, and other options until we settled on Traverse City, Michigan. 

Pros: the scenery is supposed to be gorgeous, it’s a MUCH shorter drive (only six hours versus sixteen to S.C.), we should get to see my brother and his fam on the return trip, it shouldn’t be terribly hot, and we’ll still be staying in a hotel right on the shore.  With a one-year-old, a shorter drive and a shorter stay sound wiser to us.  The kiddo is a great traveler and has been to quite a few places already, but I wouldn’t blame him if he lost it after being cramped in his car seat for sixteen hours, so six hours seems a much safer bet. 

I’ve already taken the lil’ guy on two two-night trips since summer break started, so the packing is all very familiar.  It’s a lot more fun this time, though–my husband wasn’t able to join us on the two little trips, so I had to prep everything and pack the car by myself while keeping the little one entertained and safe.  Tonight was nice, though; I was able to organize my bag in peace while Liam and his daddy played together. 

Anyone who has traveled with a small child, even for one night, knows the sheer VOLUME of stuff you have to bring.  Really, there’s not much difference between going away for a night and going away for a week or two.  A few more clothes, but that’s it.  Either way, we need the Pack’n’Play, stroller, some toys, the diaper bag, clothes, sippee cups, snacks for the road, the baby’s white noise machine with the little light projector of sheep and the moon and stars, disinfectant spray for the hotel room, med kit…yikes, as I type this up I’m trying to remember whether or not we actually remembered to pack all of this! Our car is not huge (Pontiac Vibe named Jack Black), but we know we can fit everything if it’s packed strategically.  

The plan is to wake up early (6ish is early in summer), quickly load up ol’ Jack with our bags and paraphernalia that are pretty much ready to go now, and get the kiddo ready, hoping he’ll go back to sleep once we’re en route.  We want to drive about halfway and then find a nice rest area or town to stop for a couple-hours’ break.  We’ll see what happens when that alarm goes off.  Wonder how much longer every little task will take than we expect? Whatever happens, we’re looking forward to getting away together, just the three of us. I’ll try to keep updates (with pictures) coming throughout the week!

Sugar Fast Update

So the no-buying-candy streak lasted nearly two full months.  It began April 17 and ended today.

Not bad, right? Fifty-three days without incident, as my sign would read if my resolution were a factory or something involving dangerous machinery.  Although, come to think of it, a mere fifty-three days wouldn’t inspire that much confidence if I were a prospective employee at said factory.  But I digress.

What triggered the slip-up?  Super crazy exhausted stressful driving!  My baby boy and I were heading home from my great-uncle’s memorial service only to discover that anywhere we needed to go was fraught with delays and detours.  Ugh.  After almost two hours of stalled traffic, missed turns, unclear street signs, lack of GPS, and a slightly crabby toddler in the backseat, I did finally break down (not literally with the car or anything) and buy a package of gummy bears at the Walgreen’s where I asked for directions.  Even though I was finally getting close to where I needed to be, my tension level was so high, I just didn’t care much about my rule at that particular moment.

So I gave in to a moment of weakness.  We all do, right?  (Please say yes–I can’t stand being the only imperfect one!)

We can’t let temporary slip-ups derail the whole experiment.  We acknowledge the mistake and move on with fresh resolve.

Observations so far:

1) I definitely have been eating MUCH less candy during this time.  The only times I’ve indulged were at a few get-togethers, including my cousin’s baby shower this past weekend.

2) The candy I’ve had has seemed more of a treat.  Exactly as it should!  Not an everyday thing.

3) Sort of contradictory to #2, I don’t enjoy candy the way I used to.  I’m not giving up sugar by any means, but I’m finding that my tastes lean more toward baked treats, anything made from REAL ingredients.  I tried making chocolate mousse out of nothing but avocado, cocoa powder, and honey that was ahh-mazing! I love my cookies and enjoy them much more than fake-tasting candy.  The gummy bears I ate today were completely unsatisfying and made me feel sick.  So actually, this was a productive end-of-streak; it reminded me of how much better real food tastes and strengthened my resolve for the next several months.

Bummer to have to start the count over again, but such is life.  I’m feeling pretty darn good about my fifty-three days.

How about you?  What’s the tally for you and your specific goals?