Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cottage 2017

The scent of the Northwoods is one that you won't soon forget, even after you leave the dense lodge-pole pine forests and wood-cabin-clad McDonald's.  You might try--but I have a feeling that after you visit, it will remain tattooed on your heart in the shape of a tall tall pine tree.  Or maybe a little black bear cub.  Or possibly a snowmobile or giant skido bumper sticker.  Whatever it may be, I guarantee you that something from the Northwoods will leave an impression.

For me, it's the air alone, and for the life of me, I can't really figure it out.  The upper peninsula of Michigan and the northern-most parts of Wisconsin are still the Midwest.  They aren't really out of earshot but they feel so different.  The air seems crisper, gentler, maybe a bit more relaxed.  The heavy pine scent is present everywhere-- and every giftshop seems to capatilize on it by offering candles and oil diffusers and eye masks containing "Northwoods" scent.  In the winter, the air is cool--not unlike ours at home, but it lacks the manufactured undertones that we seem to have.  Instead, there is a purity to the air that can't be compared to back home.

When we are at the cottage, I feel my best.  The air, the lake, the rutted Denton Road (that was recently paved and left me feeling all "old lady-ish" by realizing that times they are a changing...) all make it my happy place.  Things slow down when we are at the cottage and the daily grind seems to vanish like the morning fog rising above the lake.  Nothing is too different, yet everything is not the same.  It's as though a huge 'happiness charm' is cast over our family (sorry, we've been reading a lot of Harry Potter recently) and things just fall into place.  For this reason, we ventured up north for a few days over (a very cold) "spring" break.  Although we just returned from (semi) sunny Arizona, a trip North sounded like good food for the soul.  I packed oodles of yoga pants for me and comfy clothes for the kids.  We threw in some warm winter outerwear and for the first time ever, I didn't obsess about packing totes full of toys to keep the kid occupied, after all, it's the cottage! Our magical, relaxing place where things don't go wrong!  I looked forward to our break and the time it might allow me to play games with the kids, cook some hearty winter meals, and inhale the sweet pine scent outdoors and the sweet smell of raspberry shampoo on freshly bathed heads indoors.  I imagined flannel jammies and cozy fires and endless games of Bingo before settling down for bed.

In doing so, I made a fatal flaw.  I allowed myself to look forward to-- and be excited about our little vacation. Because, if you've read this blog for any amount of time, you remember that my number one strategy to dealing with (life, basically) a family trip is: Set incredibly low expectations.   Usually, this means my internal dialogue sounds something like this: "Someone will probably get sick-- please sweet Jesus don't let it involve throw up in the van.  The kids will be extra whiny. Anna won't nap and will have trouble sleeping at night.  Charlie will be bored without technology.  Mason and I will mostly be annoyed with each other.  This is going to be a long three days."  But as you already know, I had my rose-colored glasses on prior to the trip.

Big mistake.  Big.  Huge.  (Sorry, "Pretty Woman" was on the other day too.  Couldn't resist.)

This is not to say that we didn't have fun-- we had a great time once we adjusted our reality a little.  The kids were thrilled to stay in a hotel in Madison on Friday night.  This broke up our trip and allowed us to avoid pulling into the driveway at 2:00 am.  (Totally something we would do had we not been traveling with a spicy two year old.)

Anna constantly hijacked my phone.  

She also took the hotel phone and immediately stated that it was her puppy.  Although we tried to capture a video, it just didn't happen.  But imagine Anna pulling Puppy all over the hotel room and cuddling with it on the couch. 

Charlie wanted to sleep in the same bed as Anna so badly but she's just not quite there yet.  She thought he was hysterical and kept giggling and bouncing and laughing and slapping, etc. etc. etc.  Daddy put the ka-bosh on that as soon as I gave him the OK.  
On Saturday morning, we drove the remaining four hours to the cottage after eating breakfast and swimming at the hotel.  (I'm pretty sure both kids will tell you that swimming was the highlight of their spring break.) We arrived in the early afternoon, which gave me time to shop at Walk About while the kids and Daddy cozied up the cottage and watched basketball.  Sidenote: Is there anything better than a day fire?  Because I'm having trouble thinking of much...

The weather was much cooler than it has been in the past few years, but we did manage to get outside every day-- even if it was just a few minutes for a quick walk down Denton Road.

Sunday was by far our roughest day.  After a full afternoon in the cottage, Anna was ready for something new.  The hodge-podge of toys from generations ago was not intriguing, the original Chutes and Ladders game and "twirly" Bingo game held zero interest, and we hadn't bought nearly enough snacks to tide her over (in her opinion).  She cried and whined and wandered around the cottage until we declared an emergency outing to Shopko, where we would try to salvage our sanity.

As it turns out, Shopko not only held numerous toys and games that we found ourselves in desperate need of, but ultimately the key to our happiness as well. And while I wasn't quick enough to stop Anna from eating the orange tic-tack she found under the shoe rack, I was quick to find plenty of things to occupy our time for the next two days.  We dumped a few lego sets, new markers, games, movies, and some generic cheese puffs in the cart (oh, and new shoes too), lowered our expectations of this trip, and headed back to the cottage.

After arriving back at the cottage equipped with random toys and fresh attitudes, our remaining days were exactly what we had hoped for.  (Perhaps our expectations were even surpassed as I beat Mason's record on the "Bop-It").

She plead her case to go swimming time and time again, before taking matters into her own hands.  
Now that we're back in our house, suitcases strewn around the house, clothing half-washed/ half- dirty, dried-up markers that sat out for an 8 hour car trip, half-eaten snacks and no groceries in the house, it's easier to reflect on our time away.  Honestly, whatever our adventure, at this exact moment in our lives our truth is that traveling is hard.  Toddlers are such wild cards-- always giving us what we don't expect, which can provide extreme angst and anxiety or the biggest belly laugh we've had in days.  And while it's hard, it's something that we value and know we must continue.  I want our kids to move and explore and discover the joy of 'getting away'.  They need to learn that things aren't always the same as home and adjustments (even our attitudes, Mama) need to be made.  And honestly, the truth is that in giving our kids these mini adventures, we're learning and re-learning these lessons, and writing our own grown-up adventure as well.

1 comment:

  1. Ahh, the view from the table over the lake is so peaceful. Thanks for sharing.