Summer Surprises (part 2)

Re-enter sweet daughter to the room, gasping for breath in excitement.

She’s got a list going.

Roller skating, put-put golf, and Raging Rivers water park.

Ohhhhhhhhh, but it gets better. The list of amenities she found at the Super 8 at the town neighboring the waterpark.

“Mom, they have a pool, a COFFEE MAKER, (catching breath) an ironing board, and it’s only $80/night!”

In that moment, I realized that I have been setting the bar wayyyyyy too high for myself. They are just kids who just want to have simple and pure fun. They have no idea if a vacation costs $8000 or $800 and comes with a beautifully planned Pinterest board prior to departure.

I also realized we actually had a chance of “selling” this idea to my husband since it turns out we could accomplish this in a weekend without taking much time off (since he’s squeezing in so much work now so that he can take full advantage of his company’s paternity leave in November. Gotta love a man with integrity.)…without much travel time and pretty low cost, I tell them to go for it!

I could have never predicted what would happen next.

The 11 and 10-year-old went to work together for hours to put together the cutest PowerPoint to present to my husband when we got home from work. Highlights included the Super 8, a local roller skating rink, Jimmy Johns, and Wendy’s. My 10-year-old son put on his suit coat (about two sizes too small, which made the used car salesman pitch–and image–even more spectacular).

In the end, we got the YES!

The morning of departure was magical. We woke up to the 5-year-old wetting our bed. All but one kid still needed to be packed (because THE one had packed himself). I wasn’t packed. I was threatening the bed wetter that he was either going to eat the breakfast I made or we were leaving him at home. There were more than a few snide remarks and death looks exchanged between the adults about the lack of preparation in packing. And all the kids were fighting as they got in the car. All we just needed a rainbow and fairy dust floating around us to complete this magical moment.

On the road. Thank you, sweet Jesus, that we only had a 55 minute drive since we upgraded the kid’s idea of the Super 8 and stayed at the lodge on the river next to the water park. I said a few silent prayers for peace and patience in the car—more for myself than anyone else. I once heard a sermon about moms being the thermostat of the family and have tried hard to remember that even though it’s hard, it’s a privilege and an honor and a whole lot of power I possess as a mom to either sink our attitudes or elevate them. Prayers worked.

All happy kids emerged from the car.

Day one—

Hiking at Pere Marquette state park. (We started with all smiles in the visitors center, and 5 seconds on the path, the 5 year old started throwing rocks at us. We had a map and pretty much couldn’t get lost but we parents started fighting over the trail even though it had no bearing on the success of our mission…. the views were gorgeous and the kids were great 67% of the time, even had a great first aid response effort with a minor fall)

Thank goodness for the adventure packs that Mookie had stocked for the kids!

Lunch on the veranda at the lodge. (beautiful BEAUTIFUL weather and scenery and smiling faces since I packed a lunch with all their favorite things….and just one time out)

There is no better Goldfish than the Xtra Cheddar…all the processed food here! Hey, it’s vaca.

Short trip to the animal rescue center nearby (doesn’t matter that we had no cell reception and sat is a car for 30 minutes while Luke walked around a restaurant trying to get service just so that we could get our map loaded to even find the center… and while he was gone I was had seriously contemplated running away from the whole damn vacation and all the crabby kids who needed something fun NOW…because when we finally got there, the joy that came from simple things—seeing rescued bald eagles up close, coyotes pacing and playing with  Ian at the fence of their pen, and the littlest pinching his nose not knowing it’s impolite to enter the center and announce how stinky it is).  

Pretending to be eagles.

Returned to the lodge to swim (joy mixed with more time-outs)

Out to dinner at the Loading Dock (BEAUTIFUL outdoor eating on the water in shade, cool atmosphere, fun yard games for the kids….Ian spilled a cup of water, a chicken tender, his pudding cup so that it looked like a pudding murder scene on the floor below him…and yes he picked up his chicken tender and brushed it off and kept eating. The neighboring tables loved what we added to the ambiance)

These two got the best burgers!! Those nachos weren’t bad either!
Pre-spill and pudding murder scene.

Back at the lodge — Shuffle board (joy mixed with more time outs)

A walk to the river (joy mixed with threats of staying out of mud, more threats when oldest got stuck in the mud, threats and lies about what would happen to limbs and diseases they would contract if they fell in the dirty river water mixed with happy faces and beautiful sunset)

Tick checks and bath time (mostly an hour of threats—I’m pretty sure the joy was gone for a solid hour)

It’s just as more fun to fight on a hotel bed!

Trying to settle down 3 kids sharing a queen bed (Ian was the main culprit. I compare his joy of vacation life to a bottle of champagne that has been shaken before it is popped open—and we were trying to put the bubbles back inside. Impossible)

Sleep—thank you, Jesus, for SLEEP! (over 6 months pregnant and exhausted from hiking, walking, hiking, walking)

Stripped of family dynamics, day one was SIMPLE.


CHEAP packed lunch   

FREE Animal Rescue Center


Dinner Out


Walk to the river at sunset

And yet is was SO MUCH FUN. And I hadn’t had to put so much stinking pressure on myself that it had to be perfect because I pinned the pictures, planned for weeks, spent a ton of money. There was no pressure at all. We just wanted to be together and have fun. Even mixed with the time outs and fights, it was amazing. I would say all of the craziness made it that much better.

Day two was par for the course. Breakfast at the lodge with fights and friendly convo. Raging Rivers for 7 hours—plenty of time for kids to be overheated and cranky and for this mom to have at least one breakdown and cry because she stood in line at a different place while kids scarfed down food and went back out to play before I was able to sit with them. Pregnancy hormones got the best of me. It was not pretty. But the next moments watching our older kids bring the youngest up to the “big boy” slides and help him up the hills and into the rafts was priceless.

“Hey guys, look at mommy for a picture!”

Even though our weekend was cut short because the entire area was completely booked for the second night – another crazy twist and bummer for us– it was great! We grabbed ice cream on the way out of town at the local fudge shop, fought a little more in the car and stupidly promised more fun Sunday. And we held to the promise. Put-put golf and dinner out after a church and a little rest. It was all exhaustingly fun. But ordinary. And there was so much relief in it. And while yes, I have a ton of cute pictures that could paint a rosy weekend, I want to remember ALL OF IT. All the familiar fighting, time outs, and squabbles that marred our vacation but didn’t ruin it.  ALL OF IT made it the only way the Liebermans would experience vacation. And it honestly ranks right up there with our other stressfully planned, more expensive, higher expectation laden vacations. I am grateful for this summer and the twists, turns, and “disappointments” that lead to a very humble but extraordinary vacation for my family. I have been freed forever of the ludicrous and outrageous standards I put on myself and filled to the brim with memories I will remember forever (now that I’ve kept them safe here). #Staycation2019 you stole my heart.

“Is this vacation over yet?” …. Just kidding…French toast stick food coma at the lodge breakfast buffet. He may have broken into and tasted a few sugar packets while we were enjoying convo with the big kids. Yep. This is the good stuff vacations are made of.

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