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This year, we traveled to the northern part of lower Michigan for a winter vacation fest! Tracy's parents have a cottage at the base of Sleeping Bear Dunes on Little Glen Lake about an hour outside of Traverse City. It is pure heaven and gorgeous in the summer but we have never been up there in the winter. This was the year! We were getting together to celebrate Grandma Bunny and Grandpa Jim's 70th birthdays. The only bummer, Julie and her boys as well as Sue weren't able to join us. They were in Costa Rica as its a really busy time of year for Julies massage business. They were missed but I also know they had a great time together.
Tracy's sister Tammy and we rented the house/cabin next door to our parents place and we had a blast! The Sleeping Bear Dunes area is gorgeous year round and there is a TON of fun stuff to do...
We all arrived on Saturday and got a lay of the land. The kids fell right back into their friendships with their cousins and Grandma made chalupas, a family tradition.
Another tradition? football! We have a Lions, Packer, Vikings and Patriots fan all in the family and given the TV football line up that week, we had plenty of entertainment (the best being the inter-family rivalry:))
Grandpa also had a 1/2 court basketball court installed last summer and their were some mean games of HORSE and 2 on 2 including a few free throw contests (Grandpa is still the standing winner). Jimmy was out there every chance he got in short sleeves in the snow and 20 degree weather (he doesn't get cold)
The girls commanded Grandmas time and soon there were cupcakes and knitting lessons going on. Kay was in hog heaven and I think Grandma was too.
Sunday we gave sledding at the gravel pit across the road a try and even ice skated on Little Glen. That was harder than it looked since the ice was pretty bumpy but the kids had a great time anyway (don't they always?!) Grandma also cooked a big traditional Christmas meal and we played charades. Its was pretty darn cute watching the kids act out and guess their "Place, Team, Book or Movie". We definitely have some future actors in the crowd.
Monday was our 1st real attempt at skiing as well as New Years Eve and Georgia's 10th birthday. We have been skiing in the past with the kids, but this time, the kids were in ski school as a Christmas gift from Grandma and Grandpa (THANK YOU!!) This gave Tom and I time to ski together, something we haven't done in over 10 years (Thanks again Mom and Dad). The kids did great! Jimmy, despite his fear of heights, got on the chair lift and they were all doing blue's by the end of the day. We were really proud of them! We had a really long day and kept dinner simple, Tammy made pasta and we toasted in the new year with sparkling grape juice and wine. Everyone fell into bed happy but exhausted at "midnight". (Tom and Jeff had the great idea to set all the clocks ahead 2 hours, so we counted down with the kids and still managed to get them into bed at a decent hour, shhh...its our little secret!!)
Tuesday was our chance to give Sleeping Bear Dunes a try and SLEDDING! Now, we have been sledding a million times but Sleeping Bear Dunes is another story. Its a massive sand dunes that borders Lake Michigan and Little Glen Lake. In the summer, its a 30 min hike to the top and then another 2 hour hike to Lake Michigan. This gives you a bit of a sense of the scale, its a MASSIVE hill. I will admit, climbing the dunes in the winter is much easier than in the summer but its WAY colder. The wind comes off Lake Michigan and its a steep steep hill. Of course, the kids loved every minute but I think Tammy was going to have an ulcer at how fast they were going down hill without helmets. We did see a couple people hit the jumps at the end of the hill and hurt themselves. It was crazy! We recouped with a hamburger bratwurst meal and reintroduced the kids to the movie
The Princess Bride. Its a classic and even Grandma and Grandpa loved it. ....As you wish:)
Wednesday was Georgia's birthday "party", we headed the hour into Traverse City and spent the day at an indoor water park. It was a gas. Grandpa and Tracy played a couple games of 2 on 2 water basketball with Jimmy and Joey, Grandpa also went down the water slides with Herbie and Billy and Grandma even got her hair wet (a rarity) and went down the water slides multiple times with all the grand kids. We raced on the watersides, hung out in the whirlpool, swam in all the pools and played in the splash park. AND...the best part, it was probably the cleanest indoor water park we have ever been to so Tracy didn't have to douse the kids with antibacterial wash when they were done:) Dinner was suppose to be Georgia's choice (lobster) but, go figure, northern Michigan didn't have any the day after New Years. We had to "settle" for steak and shrimp. Poor us. After the kids were in bed Jeff challenged Tammy, Tom and Tracy to a game of hearts. We forgot how much fun that game is and how its the perfect cabin game. We kept the game going 3 days and I think Jeff was the only one to shoot the moon but I think in the end Tracy still won (at least that's our story and we are sticking to it!)
Thursday was another day of skiing and ski school. The kids now knew what to expect and practically ran out of the car. Tracy and Tom were able to explore another part of the ski hill and Tom even got a few Black Diamond runs in. They were making snow on the hill and it was noticeably less crowded than on New Years Eve. We spent all afternoon skiing together and the kids are now addicted. They kept asking the whole way home "when can we go again?! Can we get skis?!" We went to dinner in Frankfurter at Grandma's favorite restaurant Fusion. Its a really nice and tasty Asian place that specializes in Thai but also has Korean and Chinese. The best part? They put us in our own room! Yeah! It was nice to relax and not worry about cooking for 1 night. Kay, of course, took a bet from Jimmy/Grandma and ate a whole spoonful of wasabi. The look on her face was priceless - she didn't react to the heat at all, but gave a look of total diva-ness. Then, she promptly ran to the bathroom and threw up. As Jimmy put it, a good "life lesson". Back at the ranch, we got a killer game of Uno going with the kids. Its full combat Uno with 6 kids. The decibel level was out of control.
Friday was our last "down" day. We hit the slope at Sleep Bear Dunes again, but this time with helmets. Jeff and Tom even got in a few runs. We also read books, played cards, shot hoops and lazed around. Tom made a killer meal of broasted chicken and we watched Prep and Landing (a series of short animated films about Christmas). We all headed outside in our pajamas right before bed to look at the stars. It was so dark and so clear it was an amazing sight. Really beautiful and peaceful and awe inspiring (nothing better than standing in the snow, in your boots and pj's looking at stars. everyone should have that memory.....)
Saturday came and it was time to pack up an go. Grandma/pa headed back to South Carolina, Tammy/Jeff back to Grand Haven and the Loudamericans were driving back to Toronto. We were in a bit of a game of beat the clock as the Viking/Packer game was at 8pm and we had a goal to be home in time for kick off. I happen to know that all 3 families were gathered around their TV's in their respective homes, tired, glad to be home and cheering on their team. (Grandpa and Joey, Jimmy and Tom owe you a hamburger:))
It was an awesome vacation. Tons of family time, outdoor time, reading, playing, cards, food, a fire in the fireplace every night, etc. Notice, we didn't watch TV, read the paper, check email or even turn on our phone?! The dogs also loved it and got a daily walk and played in the snow with the kids. Having 2 houses next door to each other was perfect too. Grandma/pa got their "alone" time without the blare of kids and the kids got to do 1 big week long sleep over. Tammy/Jeff/Tracy/Tom also had some good adult bonding time over hearts and wine after the kids passed out.
We are already planning next year but are hoping Julie, Ced, Solomon and Sue will join us. There is plenty of room and plenty of fun and love to go around! Plus, we suspect Ced and Solomon will kill everyone on the ski hill with their snowboard skills given how good they are at surfing and skateboarding....
So, a wonderful loving, relaxing, fun way to start 2013. A good omen for the year to come:)