About That Swan: Marco Island Staycation


If you’re planning a trip to the beach with kids, may I highly suggest taking a swan float–the larger the better. You’ll have to blow it up when you get there, of course, but make sure lots of people are watching when you do because seeing a person nearly pass out while taking 30 minutes to inflate a giant swan, one breath into a tiny blow hole at at time, is apparently highly entertaining. As the swan inflates, be sure to hold him as awkwardly as possible while simultaneously blowing and trying to see past his slowly expanding body to watch your kids who will soon be entertained by giant swan for all of sixty seconds before leaving him to somersault in the wind across the beach while you chase him.

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When you ask one of your children to please carry the fully inflated swan back to the hotel, make sure to make it sound like a damn privilege so that your other children suddenly want to be a part of it and mercilessly fight over the job. When onlookers turn their heads to watch said fight, calmly smile and pretend that children scratching each others’ faces off over who gets to carry a giant inflatable swan is NOTHING TO SEE HERE. When entering hotel, choose narrow doorways so that giant swan gets stuck and designated swan-carrying child screams and trout-flops on the lobby floor. Take pictures of screaming child yanking the swan’s neck, attempting to pull him from the door because parents laughing and taking pictures of said scenario does not aggravate frustrated child at all. When entering elevators with giant swan, make sure to choose ones that are already near capacity with other hotel guests. When deciding when to take the swan back out to the beach, consider wind conditions and choose VERY WINDY for the occasion. If, in the case of high winds, swan does a triple axle in the air before blowing away towards the sea at high speed, save yourself the embarrassment and don’t look to see who’s watching. Then walk away, thanking the good Lord it was only $15 and that swan probs will no longer highlight your vacation. When your children point at cartwheeling swan and cry, “MY SWAN! MY SWAN!” for all the beach to hear, tell them you will buy another one even though you have no intention of following through. Try not to notice the hero to your left who is grabbing flippers and a snorkel and running all Hasselhoff into the ocean to save the swan. Laugh when you see the swan somersault away again but maybe stop laughing when it keeps happening and man continues rescue. And then maybe after 15 minutes of watching now barely visible man, start to freak out and summon some other people on the beach to freak out with you. When man finally turns around without the swan, keep an eye on him and root under your breath, “Please make it back, please make it back” because you are somewhat responsible for his life now. When he lifelessly arrives on shore an eternity later, quietly thank him for his valiant effort and promise yourself never to bring a swan to the beach again. And finally, 20 minutes later when jet-skiers come riding up to the beach hugging a giant swan, inquiring who it belongs to, look away and curse while your kids run to retrieve it.

See–all the beach advice you need. You got it here. You’re welcome.

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With that said, we had a school break last week, so I took the kids and a friend of Lainey’s to Marco Island for a few days last week, and we did nothing but swim, scour the beach for treasures and chase the swan. During a time of year when I usually miss the Midwest, there was nowhere I would have rather been than that beach with these kids in this crazy little sliver of life where everything is colorful.

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We watched the sunset every night and stayed on the beach well past dusk while I photographed little cartwheeling silhouettes against the sky.

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We brought home a giant jar of rainbow shells–some of the prettiest we’ve ever collected.

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Heidi joined us on the last day for a big sunny hoorah.

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And little Penny Lane here was in her element.

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A little video of our adventure (see Nella’s dab mid-video):


Enjoying: Last of Michigan


The suitcases are packed, and we’re about ready to say goodbye to Michigan. We’ll slowly make our way home, stopping for a few more adventures with friends and family along the way, but we will be good and ready to reenter our routines when we’re home. It’s been a summer without hustle, the most valuable feeling I’m protecting and taking home with me.

I haven’t done a lot of writing here–pausing the exhale for more inhale. But I’ve read books, taken walks, floated on my back in the lake at high noon, kayaked as the sun sets, sipped my morning coffee from the hammock, held my kid’s hand as she braved her first jump off the dock and driven on long winding roads framed by nothing but cornfields and forests for hours–and  I’d like to think that all equals something, as Extreme would say, More Than Words.

The last of our Michigan adventures enjoyed:

Hartwick Pines State Park
…a majestic sanctuary of trees, many that are fallen providing a natural playground for the kids. We hiked a path that led to a tiny chapel in the woods, and though it was all I could do not to call in a rescue (two of four kids were crying and asking to be held), we found the chapel, arriving at the most magical light and yes, it was worth it.

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Thank God I thought to bring the Boba.

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“I Goin’ to the Yake.”
He likes me to follow several paces behind him to prove he can make his way there all by himself.

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This red barn and field of Queen Anne’s Lace that sang its siren call on our drive the other day.

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Petoskey, Michigan.
…hugs Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay and offers the charm of its historic Gaslight District with shops and restaurants. The kids love the playground at the bay where, if you look closely, you can watch people jumping off the breakwall in the distance, which is apparently a rite of passage for vacationers.

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The Park Dinosaur
May I introduce this T-Rex that was running around the park in Petoskey the other day. No kids’ party. No reason. Just a random guy who got bored Sunday afternoon and decided to turn off Netflix, grab his dino costume and head down to the park to chase kids. Part creepy but mostly hilarious because I don’t think he realized the big kids would chase him with the intention of, what appeared to be, killing him. He was BOOKING it. So much that Nella’s initial cries at spotting him turned into straight-up laughing because yes, watching a T-Rex sprint and weasel through the park with a trail of kids screaming and chasing him is indeed a knee-slapping event.

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3 in Stripes at once.

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Isaac the dinosaur who comes with us everywhere.

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Summer reading.
There’s a stack of old kids’ books from the 70’s at Gary’s family cottage. The Sesame Street one doesn’t have Elmo in it because he wasn’t born yet.

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Not giving a hoot about how filthy they get. I think I’ve washed their hair sll of maybe 4 times on this entire trip.

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Watching my dad love my kids.

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The way-past-bedtime cereal bowl she talks my dad into giving her.

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Switching clothes.
They wear the same size, and I love it.

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The girl who caught 15 fish on her own the other day and now has a slight obsession with fishing.

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Lake swimming.
I love the ocean but don’t have the overwhelming urge to dive in and swim. Here? I want to go under. I want to canon ball off the boat, somersault under the water and swim until I’m too tired to tread water.

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Breakfast bagels in the garden.

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Tucking an entire month of memories with these guys in the books.

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Looking forward to going home and all that the horizon holds.

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Camp Bliss: A Summer Camp Adventure


Seeing as we’ve now watched Parent Trap 19 times on this trip (NOT KIDDING–it plays in the car when we’re on the road, and Nella won’t let anyone switch it out), we decided to kick off our own camp day this summer. Actually, I made that sound like a random carefree decision, but let’s be real here. I thought the dickens out of this thing. I started out landing on some cute tube socks around Christmas, thinking “oh, wouldn’t these be cute for a summer camp day,” and then it snowballed until one day I was designing camp logo shirts and googling how to emboss leather. I don’t know how the hell it happened. One minute, I’m throwing canoe stickers into a pile saved for summer and next thing you know, I hold the inventory to run a 3-month camp for the Girl Scouts of America. Whatever, we rolled with it.

We planned this for a weekend with some dear little cousins, but they couldn’t make it this year so we invited some new friends who live near my dad’s cottage. (Lainey had a blast with her new friend but isn’t in a lot of photos here because I don’t know the family of the little girl with her and didn’t have a chance to ask if it was okay to feature her photo.) Also one more disclaimer and I swear I’ll shut up–I’m editing on a tiny laptop with limited software, so these photos are a little off.

Basically, I wanted to give the kids a full camp adventure with an emphasis on arts and crafts lodge because I was the dork who hung out there all day long. What’s that? Time for tug-o-war? No thank you, I’m finishing my 59th lanyard keychain. You go ahead. Also, they are too young for the hot sailing instructor, so I skipped that part too.

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Table camp décor: compass plates, campfire centerpiece, pine tree cupcake toppers, mini flashlights. Also, several people have asked about the kids’ tube socks. We wear these ones, and they are perfect–nice and snug.

I fly my camp freak flag much like my Christmas one, so anything that screamed summer camp, we were all HELL YAAAAAAAS. Kayaking? Yes. Archery? Yes. Build a lean-to out of sticks? YES! Okay, we didn’t build a lean-to, but look! Sack races!

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Our outdoor nature lesson came from my dad’s butterfly house where more than 30 butterflies feast on milkweed and flowers.

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I ran the camp tattoo parlor (Tattly camp set), and I take my job seriously.

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We did these camp crafts for the arts and crafts lodge along with several others, and I’d hereby like to say a huge thank-you to my dad and Gary for not saying one word about their back deck looking like a ransacked Hobby Lobby bin.

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The 10th Camp Commandment: Thou shalt not hold camp without tie-dye.

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Or archery. Even if you don’t ever make it even close to the target. Just fling the arrows at each other and get mad and throw them when they don’t go where you wan them to go. I think that’s how the professionals do it too. One more thing–FAKE ARROWS. Whew, that was an important one.

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Camp. of course, ends with a fire. With wood and sticks gathered by the little ones. And hot dogs and marshmallows.

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And now, I pause this post to impart the wisdom I gained from toasting marshmallows for 30 consecutive nights. Want the perfect toasted marshmallow? Crispy and brown, bubbly in all the right places?

1. Don’t use those commercial metal sticks they sell. The marshmallows slide off them, and there’s no grip to keep them positioned properly. You need a real stick, scoured from a Walk for the Perfect Stick (proper noun, of course). 
2. Don’t go near the flames. Go for the glow–the wood that’s red hot but won’t catch your marshmallow on fire.
3. ROTATE. Think rotisserie. Slowly rotate your marshmallow to even brown all sides.
4. Patience. It’s going to take time. You have to be in it for the long run. Think goals. Perfectly brown takes time, but that marshmallow will be worth it in the end.

With those four rules, you too can create this beauty.

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We rightly trashed our camp shirts with marker and glue and dirt and marshmallow. We laughed and made messes and decided that camp is really just real life summer with a cool logo.

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Either way, we liked it. And I’ve got 12 months to start planning the next one

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So much to do…so little time. wink-wink.

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To all our fellow Monday-ers out there, happy day to you.

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