This Is Where We Live

We are lucky to live where we do.

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Michigan has some of the best beaches ever…and I say that having seen both the Atlantic and the Pacific. I definitely prefer fresh water and the clean beaches here.

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All of our kids love the beach.  Eddie could stay in the water for days, but he settles for hours. Charlie likes to wander off by himself and play in the sand or watch the waves. And Alice is content to take it all in–and also take a cat nap here and there–from the shade of the umbrella on a lap.

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I wish I could say this is where we are every possible moment, but it’s not true. We are lucky to have friends who invite us out because going to the State Park brings out my anxiety. It’s not nearly as relaxing with all the crowds.

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This is much more our pace. Thankfully we DO have friends who have lake front property both on the Big Lake and on a small inland lake.

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Next year will be even more fun since Alice will be able to wear sunscreen and play in the sand too. Not that she minded her spot on a lap this year.

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And Eddie will be a year older, a little stronger swimmer, and hopefully I won’t have to worry about his overconfidence in those waves like I did this year.  Thankfully Charlie is cautious about the water and the sun. He sticks close to the beach and wears sunscreen, his life jacket, a bucket hat, and goggles at all times. Safety first, right Bird?

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Yes, we are beach people. Good thing it’s only about a 15-minute drive to a beach.

What is the best part about where YOU live?

Top Ten Tuesday: Vacation Memories

Since I am in the midst of the longest stretch of work with no break (from Sept 7 until Thanksgiving), I thought an appropriate Top Ten list this week would be vacation memories.

Lately I have been finding myself dreaming of going far, far away with my little family so that we can get some much needed rest and relaxation together.  These dreams have taken me back to some memories I have of traveling with my family, with my husband, with my friends, and with my little family of three.

So here we go….

10. My mom walking off the dock in Pentwater, MI. I was in high school when my family rented a cottage up north in Pentwater, MI, and my parents let me take my best friend, Tonya, along with us.  This particular cottage didn’t have any private beach, but it did have a private dock that had a lovely wide end to it for sunning and swimming and just having fun in the water.  The first day we were there, my brothers, parents, Tonya, and I were headed out to the dock to hang out.  Everyone was preoccupied with what they were doing.

Apparently my mom was so preoccupied, that she didn’t  notice that the dock ended and she walked right off of it.  She tried to play it off like she jumped in, saying things like, “whew!  it’s hot out!  this water feels SO good!”  But Tonya had watched her do it and was laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe.  My mom being totally busted…and soaking wet…was pretty hilarious.

9. Buffalo with my fiance. The year before Cort and I were married we took a trip to New York state to visit friends (oh hey, Phil and Liz!!) who lived in Rochester at the time.  Before we got there, though, we wanted to stop for a couple nights in Buffalo.  I wanted to go to the zoo–which was talked up on their website as being the third oldest zoo in the nation, having elephant washing, giraffe feeding, and camel riding–and Cort wanted to see Niagara Falls (even though I

Monkeys at the Buffalo Zoo

told him it’s just a lot of water).

This story could be a whole post, but I will boil it down to this:  Buffalo Zoo?  Lame.  We did not get to feed any giraffes, wash any elephants, or ride any camels.  We set aside a whole day for a zoo we walked int 20 minutes.  And Niagara Falls?  Cort agreed it was just a lot of water.

But we had fun laughing at our misfortune, AND we had a super time once we got to Rochester!

8. Spring Break in college. The one and only time I ever went on a spring break trip was my sophomore year in college.  A group of friends (Go Broncos!!) and I took a plane (my first jet ride ever) to St Petersburg, FL for a week-long stay.  Every day we sat by the pool and tanned.  Most of us were under 21, so we didn’t do a lot of night life, but it didn’t matter.  We had so much fun just hanging out!  And since there were five of us and only two queen-sized beds?  We rotated the person who slept on the floor. It was just plain fun and crazy.

7. Florida with my family. About four years before the spring break trip to Florida, my family took us all to Orlando, FL.  It was one of the first “big” trips my family ever took together (we usually just rented cottages for a week).  We drove the 24 hours there as a family in a van.  I have lots of hilarious memories from this trip, but one that has to do with me was when we were in the Magic Kingdom and I (an almost-sophomore in high school) was SO crabby, my mom actually made me take a time out!  While my dad and my brothers enjoyed Thunder Mountain?  I was stuck on a bench sipping a diet coke until I could “improve my mood.”

6. Tigers baseball game with my family. We have been to MANY Tiger Ball games together as a family, but one in particular sticks out to me because I. DID. NOT. WANT. TO. BE. THERE.

My family had just gotten down with a trip that included Cedar Point and a drive-thru safari (a WHOLE different memory), we were making our way back through Michigan via Detroit because my parents had gotten us tickets to see a game.  People?  As a 16 year old teenager?  I was done.  I did NOT want to be on this trip anymore.

To show my displeasure, I ridiculed (loudly) everything about the game, I insisted on showing off my new Spanish skills (thank you, high school Spanish II) by ordering my refreshments only en espanol, and I targeted the poor kid who was sitting in front of us.

That was probably the most obnoxious thing that I did.  This kid was a total Ken Griffey, Jr fan and every time Griffey did something great, he would say, “ROOOOUTINE hit for Griffey!”

It was that annoying.

So I started quietly heckling.  Finally, Griffey struck out and I leaned forward and yelled, “ROOOOOOOUTINE HIT FOR GRIFFEY!”

Dining at the Experience Music Project

The kid did not say another word the entire game.

5. Seattle with my hubby. One year after being married, Cortney and I decided to fly (my second time on a jet) to Seattle–the home of his favorite band, Pearl Jam–for a week-long vacation.  He didn’t want to be around for the “anniversary” of his dad’s passing away, and Seattle was some place we both really wanted to visit.  So we went.

We went to a zoo (duh), and aquarium (duh), the Experience Music Project, the Space Needle, the Pacific Ocean, Pike Place Market, and lots of downtown wanderings.

4. Montana for one of my best friends. Because I will do anything for my friends, Cort and I decided our vacation in 2007 would be the trip we were making to Montana for a wedding that I was in.  I blogged about it here.

Looking good at the Montana wedding

We found out a few things on that trip:  North Dakota is boring.  Montana is beautiful (and boring), Wyoming is beautiful (and boring), South Dakota has some good place to stop, but the Mitchel Corn Palace is not one of them.

3. Camping/Canoeing with the in-laws. Ok, I hate camping.  It is NOT my idea of a vacation.  But we have gone twice.  TWICE!  I blogged about both trips here, here, and here.  Despite my hate of all things camping, we have a pretty damn good time!

Canoe Trip 2010

2. Indianapolis with my family of three. This past summer’s trip to Indy will always be a favorite of mine because it was our very first vacation as a family of three.  Granted, it was only three days, but in that three days, we spent two (successful) nights in a hotel with a toddler, did some sight-seeing, visited with great friends, met some new great friends, and spent a total of eight hours in the car with

My bloggy friends in Indy

a screaming toddler.

1. My honeymoon. You knew this had to be #1, right?  Most people at this point would talk all about their magical getaway to some all inclusive resort, or perhaps a romantic trip to Europe?  Maybe a cruise?

Not us.  We were on a budget, people.

We went to Myrtle Beach.  Actually, we DROVE to Myrtle Beach. Yes, I know there are some kick ass places to stay and be pampered in Myrtle Beach.  No, we did not stay at one of them.  We stayed at the Mystic Sea Resort–which, upon arriving?  Cort deemed neither Mystical nor Resortish.  In fact, he may have used a swear word and then commented how it looked nothing like what it did on the internet (you would think we would have learned from the Buffalo Zoo debacle, wouldn’t you?).

Two newlywed beach bums

There are so many stories I can tell you about Myrtle Beach, but the main thing is that we started our marriage off with something we could afford and made it fun.  We laughed until we cried.  We enjoyed being together.  And it was perfect.

Don’t get me wrong, some day I would LOVE to go on a “real” vacation.  Something all-inclusive.  Somewhere that creates little swans and monkeys out of my towels.  But until then, we will have fun with our budget vacations.  It’s what I am used to growing up, and it is what you make it!

Now how about you?  Do you have a Top Ten list of your vacation memories?  Link it up!  And tune in this weekend when I announce next week’s Top Ten Tuesday Topic!

The Perfect Weekend

The fourth of July has always been sort of special us. Since finishing college, all of mine and Cort’s mutual friends from high school (and college) moved away around the country.  One of the only times of the year that we get to see some of them is The Fourth when they all come back to West Michigan.  This year was no different.

Although we missed some people (um, Phil and Liz?  that would be you.  Oh, and you and your no-car-lifestyle, Harbottles), we still managed (somehow) to enjoy ourselves. In fact, while getting settled in on the beach, we ran into our friend Emily, otherwise known to you bloggy friends as DesignHERmomma.  Small world.  Small “Great” Lake.

As I have blogged numerous times before, my friends’ aunt lives ON Lake Michigan.  We have been coming to this beach since high school.

Although throughout our college years, there were beer cans littering the beach, not sand toys.

Last year, Eddie was only eleven days old when we came out to see everyone, and we didn’t make it down to the beach (I couldn’t go down all those stairs.  something about an abdominal incision healing.  whatever.).

This year we were excited to see one of my BFF’s, Erin and her cowboy husband, Brad who live in Montana.  Cort’s BFF, Mat, was also in town from Colorado.

We spent a good chunk of Saturday on the beach.  Eddie helped Owen bury Mat in the sand.

And Cort took Eddie swimming.  We stopped at Meijer on the way out and picked up a $3 swimboat thing.  We weren’t sure how Eddie would do with the 1-3 foot waves, but he loved it!

The boys did a LOT of swimming.  The water was nearly 70 degrees and it felt great since it was nearly 90 degrees out! 
 A LOT of burying went on.  Mat, then Owen, then Cort.  We even buried Eddie’s legs, but he really wasn’t a fan.  I don’t blame him.  I get claustrophobic when that happens too.
After hours of playing on the beach and socializing with old friends, we had to pack up all of our gear and head over to the marina because, my friends, it was time for Slippery’s Pig Roast!
Cort’s dad (known as Slippery to many) spent quite a few years helping roast a pig every July.  We make an effort to get out there for the pig roast every year because it’s a really great fundraiser for the Yacht Club and Cort’s dad always loved it.  MacKenzie and Dave were there as well as Grandpa and Grandma Sluiter.  It was great to catch up and enjoy and event that was so dear to my father-in-law.
Of course the last event of the night was the fireworks over the lake.  Each year the Swanbergs and Visels are kind enough to invite our little family along.  Last year we had to pass since Eddie was so new and fresh and it would have just been too late for us.
But not this year!  This year we slapped Eddie’s life jacket on (which he is not really a fan of…I don’t know why.  Maybe because he becomes like a turtle stuck on its back when he’s in it), and we boarded The Crystal Lee IV for a putz out to Kollen Park for some fireworks
 Even though Eddie missed his afternoon nap and played in the sun and surf and was EXTREMELY tired, he was still in pretty good spirits for the boat ride.
 Although he got VERY sleepy.  Jake stroked his head and hugged him and told him he could just take a nap.  It was so very sweet.

Look how tired my little guy is!  Poor buddy!  Just can’t give in to sleep when there is a party of fun going on!

When we got out to Kollen Park, we anchored and waited for the sun to go down so the show could start.  Cort cuddled Eddie as best as he could with that unwieldy life jacket in the way.

Eddie had a pretty good time watching the other boats and the random, uh, illegal fireworks that were going off preshow.  But once the real deal started, he really didn’t care.  He was tired.  So Cort laid him on his side and he just drifted off to sleep when….the show ended and all the boats started sounding their horns.  This apparently is uncool to someone trying to sleep.

It didn’t take him long though, to drift back to sleep for good on our way back in to the marina.  He slept like a little rock all night.

So that today?  He could do it again!  That is right!  Today was Beach Day The Second:

Again we packed up all our gear and headed out to Lake Michigan. This time it wasn’t just us kid-havin’ folks down at the beach…

Even “The Cowboy” shed his Wranglers for mesh shorts and traded in his Stetson for a ball cap.  There were kids and dogs and people galore cooling off from the mid-ninety degree temps.

Eddie wants you to know this has been his best Fourth of July yet.  He seriously played for another two hours on that beach today.  He played with Owen again, and watched the dogs and the people.  He ate dug in the sand and went swimming.  In fact, when we carried him back up to leave, his little piggies were so shriveled they looked like little raisins.

 On the drive home today I realized just how lucky we are.  We know people with lakefront property.  We know people with a boat.  AND we LOVE all those people and they love us back.  Because of them, we spent the whole weekend celebrating our country’s independence while out on the water.  The weather cooperated.  The water temperatures were perfect.  I would not change a thing about this weekend.  It was perfect. 
Absolutely perfect.

BEACH! {and Button Giveaway Winner!}

Eddie went to the beach today. He wanted me to show you how much fun he had before I announce the winner of the Custom-designed Blog Button Giveaway…so check out his fun….

Didn’t that look like so much fun?  You want to know what else is fun?  The winner of the custom-designed blog button by my super fun friend mat is….

GRETCHEN!!!  From the Our Journey Blog!!!  YAY!!!  Gretchen, email me at ksluiter (at) hotmail (dot) com and I will get you hooked up with Mat so you can start designing your new button!

Ok, and a sidenote?  Hitting the “generate” button on and then figuring out who #25 is?  Sheer nerves!  It’s like an adrenaline rush!  I think I am addicted to giveaways.

Which reminds me, if you are local to me (West Michigan area), or can make yourself local for a photoshoot?  Enter THIS giveaway.  It runs through Sunday afternoon at 5:00pm EST.

And don’t worry all you non-local yocals…you will be included in Eddie’s final One-Year Birthday Blast Giveaway Extravaganza…keep tuning in!

Labor Day Weekend…Part I

Labor Day weekend started with us not having any cable. While reading a book was just fine for me, Cortney felt differently. Luckily, Trisha and Ben helped save us from boredom on Saturday.

We hopped on the Swanberg’s boat (Trisha’s mom and dad) around 1:30 on Saturday and headed south on the Big Lake to the dune area. We anchored with what seemed like the rest of the marina, and sat on the beach for the day. It was a pretty hot day, so we made sure to pack a lot of frosty beverages. Shortly after getting settled on the beach, we saw these horses taking a dip in the lake! Here’s Joe enjoying his lazy beach day in his fancy swimsuit. And Cortney enjoys the beach day with a frosty beer.
At some point, Trisha thought it would be a good idea to climb the dune. It took some persuading, but she got me give it a try. We look tired and hot because we WERE!
After running down…we cooled off with some more beverages.
Jake chose to cool off by sticking his face in a bucket of water.

Dang! That feels good!
Joe just keeps smiling! I knew it wouldn’t take long before Cort was playing in the sand…cheers to your sand shovel, little guy!
Cortney and I had a great time on the beach!
Partly because there was so much great food! mmmmmm!!!!

Jake thought he would work off his hotdog with a climb of the dune himself!
The beach RULES!!!
Hey…who decided to take this picture?
After a LOOONNGGG day, it was time to jump back on the boat and jet on home. As you can see, I wasn’t as diligent about my sunblock regime as Cortney was. At least it didn’t end up being painful later.

Seeing Big Red means the marina is getting close!

Cort and I enjoyed our putz back up the channel to the marina.
And Ben tried on some new duds….hey Ben…I don’t think that fits!
Back at the marina we got changed and decided to get some dinner at the club. Well, after another beverage that is.
What a great day out on the lake!

What Summer Was Made For…

Today was one of those days you feel like summertime was created for. I started the day by hitting the Holland Farmer’s Market with my mom. We both bought some fresh veggies and some really pretty gladiolas. Mom also bought some Amish bread and I bought some summer sausage. After the market, Chris invited me to go to the beach with him and Jack. As we were walking down the boardwalk, I spotted my aunt Barb coming toward us! She and uncle Mark were there as well as the rest of the camping group! What fun! The waves were ENORMOUS–topping out at 3-5 feet! They even switched the flag from yellow to red….we went in anyway because Jack LOVES waves and water!

It was pretty breezy, so Jack got a little chilly when he got out of the water. He tried to warm up in a bundle of towel while he watched Shayla crawl around in the warm sand.
Then it was time to bury Jack…his favorite sandy pasttime!
Of course, we had to bury daddy too…everyone thought that was fun! Jack espeically liked aunt Sandy’s idea of pouring water on dad! Ha!

Who’s in charge now? Then it was time to rinse off in the lake…so more wave jumping had to happen!

Man, did Jack LOVE to swim with his dad! He and Chris were out there for a pretty long time!
After the beach, Chris thought he better treat us to ice cream. Jack and I NEVER say no to ice cream! Jack got mint chocolate chip because Captain Sundae didn’t have blue moon–his first choice.
Like father, like son!
After I dropped Chris and Jack off at my parents’ house, I went to my mom-in-law’s house to meet her and Cort at the pool. More swimming was done there! This was one of those PERFECT days that wasn’t too hot and not too breezy…everything was, well, perfect! It was all the good stuff about summer…a great way to start August!

A Day With Jack

I haven’t had as many Wednesdays with Jack this year due to the busy summer I’ve had, but today we finally had a really nice day for the beach. I picked up the ole boy this morning around 7:30 a.m. We came home and Jack had the idea to make chocolate chip cookies “to surprise uncle Curly at lunch.” I thought this was a good idea, so we made the cookies. Jack liked my little step ladder because he could “check on” them a lot! After a little lunch, we headed for the beach. Jack helped aunt Sandy with the tent.
We did a bunch of swimming! The waves were HUGE–just like Jack likes them! He was a machine in those waves, taking a few face-fuls of water. I guess all the swimming made him one hungry boy! He would not even share his cheetos with me! Dang!
Rachel and Shayla came to the beach too! Jack really liked Shayla’s hat…and her tent…and her toys…
But nothing beats his motor boat! That thing put on a LOT of miles today!
We don’t look so snazzy after a face-ful of water, do we? We had to take a while to dry out before being able to get in the car.

I asked Jack what he felt like when the waves hit him in the face….this was his description:
Ah the motor boat again…did we even BRING other toys? He liked to show Shayla how it worked, since she brought a row boat…not nearly as fast, as Jack explained.
Of course we had to bury him. He LOVES the sand…so much so that when we would get out of the lake, he would immediately roll around in the sand and then plop down on the towel. So much for keeping the sand off the towel.
Jack was really good at playing with his second cousin, Shayla…they had BIG fun today!
On the way home from the beach, Jack was already talking about going again…he missed “Kissy Lizzy” this time, and he hopes grandma will come next time too!