When Ryan and I got married, we took a full ten days for our honeymoon. We stayed at a fancy hotel on our wedding night, then spent a night in the apartment we worked so hard to fix up before heading up north to a friend’s (really really nice) cottage for our first week of wedded bliss. We slept in like it was our job, ate great food, traveled up to the UP and ran a 10K before spending two nights camping at the Pictured Rocks.

Fast forward three years. Add two kids under two. Let’s just say that our idea of vacation has changed pretty dramatically. These last few months have been especially crazy. We were both running at a breakneck speed for weeks on end and we needed to get away. To slow down for a minute.

So we did. With the two under two. And there was no sleeping in and not a lot of time to ourselves and no wild adventures, but our life is what it is right now, and we actually had a lot of fun.


I hear a lot of people with young kids say one of two things – either they haven’t had a vacation since they got married or, their idea of vacation is leaving the kids and laying on a beach for a week. Don’t get me wrong, someday we probably will leave the girls home and have time just for us (tho I’m sure it won’t be spent laying on a beach!) Since that isn’t possible for us right now, we made the most of what we did have: one week off, our little family, and the offer to stay in a humble little cottage up north.

We took a serious look at what we needed, and what was realistic for us – given the two under two and a really limited budget. What we needed was rest. A break. Time unplugged. I needed to drink wine while I took a little extra time to prepare meals and Ryan needed to get on a trail, biking and running. We needed to read, to watch a TV show, to feel sand in our toes and live unhurried. While we really wanted to do a lot more stuff, it wasn’t going to get us what we needed this time. We realized we didn’t need to go far to have the vacation we actually needed.

Here’s how we did it.

Monday morning our intent was to get up and go. We only needed to eat breakfast, give the girls baths, finish packing, clean the house, clean up the siding debris from around the house, pay a bill, write one email, grocery shop, etc. etc. etc. Whatever. We made it out the door by 11a and stopped at a store a few miles out of the city. It worked out perfectly because someone had ridden their horse to that particular store and Lilia got to sit on it and feed it a carrot. Our vacation could have ended right there, she really didn’t need much more excitement.

I had planned ahead. We certainly didn’t have things laid out on a rigid schedule, but I had the foresight to create a rough outline of our meals and activities to ensure we didn’t just sit around wondering how to rest the whole time.

The drive was less than two hours, and uneventful, aside from the aforementioned horse. My brilliant plan failed immediately when my directions to our lunch location were faulty, but it didn’t matter. We drove into the little downtown area of Lake City and found a perfect eatery: The Muskrat Cafe. We filled our bellies with delicious sandwiches then found our cottage a few blocks away, unloaded, unpacked, and settled the girls in for naps. We read. When the girls were up we walked to the beach and playground just a little over a block away. We ate dinner, the girls eventually went to bed, and so did we.


Tuesday after french toast we walked into town to explore. We grabbed coffees, visited a few gift shops, and stopped into the local Chamber of Commerce to ask a few questions, get a local map, and hear about things to do. Ryan drove a few miles to a mountain bike trail while the girls napped in the afternoon, and unfortunately blew a tire halfway into his ride! After dinner that night we walked back into town for ice cream.

Wednesday we drove an hour up to Traverse City. We each put a baby on our back and walked around the shops, enjoyed a picnic lunch by the water, let Lilia feed the seagulls, then hopped back in the truck just in time for Lilia’s afternoon nap. She snoozed, as did Elayna eventually, while we drove up the Leelanau Peninsula, all the way to the lighthouse at the very tip. The girls woke up as we stopped the vehicle, so we hopped out and took a walk. And at the gift shop there, we finally found an inexpensive kite that looked like it would last more than one flight. We started heading back down the peninsula from there, stopping at Good Neighbor Organic Winery, where Lilia sipped on juice and we bought some lavender spray after sampling a few of their wines. Us girls all had a bit of a meltdown from there until we all finally filled our bellies in Leland. I enjoyed a chicken sandwich but was annoyed that I had to share it with Lilia after she demolished her kid’s meal mac and cheese. (Don’t you think if you pay seven dollars for a kids meal that it should fill up a two year old?) We were wiped out after a full day and drove home almost by the girls’ bedtimes. Elayna had slept most of the drive so ended up staying up pretty late, which was exhausting. Such is life.




Thursday we enjoyed “the biggest breakfast in the north” at The Coffee Cup restaurant, played at the elementary school playground, then spent the rest of the morning at the beach. Ryan went out for a trail run in the afternoon while I napped with Elayna, something I rarely get to do at home. He took Lilia to the playground later while I walked to the grocery store to pick up some burgers, buns, and beer, which we grilled up as soon as I got back. That evening, we walked back to town where they had a free concert in the park. Lilia was feeling very two and being as naughty as possible. She has most definitely learned where my buttons are and the particular ways in which they can be pushed.


Friday morning we gave Lilia the choice – beach, hike, or farm. She’s been really into animals lately, so not surprisingly she chose the farm. We drove a few miles to an alpaca farm, no one was around but she got a kick out of seeing them through the fence. We stopped at a few garage sales then went to the beach to fly our new kite. Lilia was more interested in playing in the sand but I think it was worth it for Ryan to finally get that thing up in the air (there hadn’t been much wind since we’d bought it). And Elayna learned to love grabbing at the sand herself and sticking her toes in as far as she could. The weekend just so happened to be the annual car show up here, so we grabbed a pizza and ate downtown then watched the cars cruise by. Elayna finally went to bed easily and on time and we were finally able to have a little time to ourselves before we were too tired to move.



Unfortunately, we both slept terribly Friday night. But Saturday morning I was up first and got going on our last big breakfast: pancakes. We enjoyed them with real maple syrup and chicken sausages, then Ryan took Lilia and the laundry to the laundry mat while I got to work cleaning the cottage and Elayna napped. We eventually walked into town together where the car show was going on. We were going to be there when they raffled off the kayaks we’d had our eyes on all week, so Ryan ran (literally, several miles) to the ATM so we could enter the raffle. We didn’t win.

By the end of the week we were pouring over real estate brochures and dreaming of buying some land up north. Not like a cottage, but like some wild land somewhere. Some place we could explore, camp, and eventually build a little log cabin and a mountain bike trail. We drove out of the way a bit on the way home Saturday afternoon to drive over some property. It wasn’t for us; but we’re dreaming.

So we got home Saturday night and Lilia started chanting “Bridge Street” which was an entirely new thing and I can say that we were all glad to be home and we weren’t frayed and worn and desperate, but I think even a little bit refreshed. Amen to that.




a real family vacation

One thought on “a real family vacation

  • August 13, 2013 at 3:31 am

    this sounds like a perfect trip for the life season we find ourselves in. full of fun adventures enjoyed at a more leisurely pace, a couple of naps, and some good food you didn’t have to cook. so glad you had that time, friends!

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