Family Vacation 2013, Traverse City

My parents celebrated their 40th Anniversary last year, and at the time my brother and I, and our respective families, promised to do something special this year to mark it.  After a bit of back and forth, everyone settled on a trip to Traverse City.  We made it clear that Mom and Dad just had to bring themselves and some of Mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce.  The kids would take care of everything else.

Here are some of the highlights.

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For some reason this year, the four of us really got hit by the "Mad Libs" bug (one of the books had a Star Wars theme, which you’ll see repeated here).  We ended up doing a lot of them on the drive up and back.  Here are some of the more memorable lines:

* …the Empire’s hot pink weapon, the Death Squirrel…
* …fire the twin blasters or the hidden laser toddler…
* …is able to predict the way a cunning opponent might prance…
* He even passed Anakin’s former light-gopher on to Luke.
* The gleaming neon hamsters can be seen from space…
* He knew how to use the Force in matters of bell bottoms…
* He wanted to know what corsets the dark side would bring him.
* …he might have given up and never even made it to Mos Eisley, where he met his first flying turtle, and witnessed Old Ben use his light-burrito…

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We rented a house on East Bay, one that was was large enough to comfortably sleep ten and featured a private beach.  Three out of the four kids present are actually fish (ahem), so having such easy and immediate access to the lake was an incredible perk.

At one point Katherine walked back up from the beach in a grumpy mood.  I tried to console her, and as a joke threatened to toss her back in the lake if I couldn’t get a smile from her.  She called me on it, thinking I was bluffing.  I wasn’t in my swimsuit, but I decided a little improv was called for.  I picked her up, threw her over my shoulder, and walked back down to the lake, much to the cheers of the other family members.

By the time Katherine hit the water, she was laughing hysterically.  That bit of improv led to a 20 minute water fight between Katherine, Lucy, CJ, and my oldest nephew.  It was a great time.

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The beach itself didn’t go to waste either.  My eldest spent a good amount of her time over a couple of days dredging "Katherine’s Lagoon":

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Unfortunately, it met its end Wednesday night when it rained.

CJ was able to build a very nice sandcastle:

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Unfortunately, the castle because the focus of an action scene later in the week.  We hired a professional photographer to come out to the house and take some nice pictures of us, and several of them ended up being "hey, let’s have the kids level the sandcastle so we can get some authentic smiles out of them" (all with CJ’s blessing, of course).  We don’t have the pictures yet, but I think it served its purpose.

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We brought lots of activities for the kids to keep them occupied and happy when they weren’t in the water.  One of those was some new Play-Doh.  Katherine decided to go a little off the deep end with her creations:

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That is actually, in Katherine’s words, a "turkey chicken".  It started out as a turkey, but was genetically altered to become a chicken.

That lost an eye.

And gained spikes.

And this is her fortune-telling chicken. 

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See the "crystal" ball?

We also brought our stash of Thomas trains and track up.  Those were set up on Tuesday, and pretty much stayed up for the rest of the week.  They were a big hit with everyone:

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We brought several large boxes with us to use as houses and forts, and those also proved to be another big hit.  The kids spent a couple of hours decorating them, and cutting out doors and windows, and then spent a good long time playing in them. 

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CJ had planned for those to be a last-full-day activity – something that would occupy the kids while the adults packed up the house.

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It worked like a charm.

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On the drive back, we stopped by Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City and bought both girls a new game of MagiQuest.  Katherine played last year with her cousin, but this was Lucy’s first time doing it, so we had to get her outfitted with a wand.

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Both girls ended up playing for over two hours, and both of them made it onto at least two of the game’s high score boards.

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The fun didn’t end there.  The day after we made it home, CJ helped the girls set up the "at-home" version of the game, stashing various animals and items around the living room.

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And then spent most of the morning making up quests for them to go on.

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We planned a few specific events throughout the week, but by and large the agenda for a given day was "wake up; what am I in the mood for now?"  We also could not have asked for better weather – sunny and 70s almost the entire week.

Overall, I think was the most relaxing vacation we’ve taken as a family.

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