A while ago Chris's parents invited us to meet them in Holland, MI to see the tulip festival held there every May. I've always wanted to go, so we jumped at the chance. I pitched the idea to Chris of us going up a day early and going to the beach and staying in a hotel, but we decided in the end it would just be too crazy. Well, the Wednesday before we were supposed to meet Chris's parents on Friday, I brought the idea up again. We had not been on any sort of vacation with our little family since we went to South Carolina when Carly was 9 months old. I needed a mini-vacation. I needed the beach. So at 10 pm that night we won a bid on Priceline for a hotel 50% off, and I went off to pack.
We got to Tunnel Park on Lake Michigan in the early afternoon. You park your car and it doesn't look like there is any water in sight, but you climb a hill and go through a tunnel, and bam, there is Lake Michigan. As I mentioned, it was a hazy day, but it was warm and beautiful and we were some of the only people on the beach. The water was still cold, but just pleasant enough to splash around in on a warm day.
Our 3 kids reactions to the beach were very telling of their personalities. Carly was initially hesitant. The sand was, after all, hot and dirty. And it was a long walk all the way down the hill to the water. Chris and I went ahead with the babies, and she slowly tiptoed her way down, in her sundress and fancy new hat. "You better go up and get Audrey Hepburn," I told Chris. She sure was beautiful.
But after being carried down by daddy and changing into her swimsuit, she ate it up, splashing in the water and warming herself in the sand. She played the whole time. I'm not sure what she was playing; she has the ability to go off in her own imagination and keep herself busy (when she's outside), and that's exactly what she did, with a few breaks to play with her babies and commission daddy to make a sand castle.
Quinn is the most serious, intricate little thing, and the beach didn't change that. If you walked by our little party, chances are you'd find Quinn with a bucket or three, stacking them, putting sand toys in them, and strategically carrying them around and setting them out. She had a plan, and that plan required all THREE buckets, which luckily were not in high demand by her siblings.
And John is a mess of a human being, proved perfectly by his reaction to the beach. I set him down and he did his high-speed crawl right into the water. He turned around and crawled back out laughing and squealing, then headed right back in. I didn't even get the chance to put his swimsuit on. He also had quite a bit of fun with the sand, as any dirt-loving boy would, and was literally covered head to toe. Poor boy . . . when we left we had to strip him down and dunk him in the lake to get it all off. Cute sandy John turned to shivering purple John, but he still had a smile on his face.
After our beach adventure we headed to our hotel, were they happened to have a free dinner waiting for us. Our room had a kitchen and living area which we thought would work out perfectly. After dinner we headed to the pool. I quickly learned the pool is not going to be our thing this summer. Even with two adults it was crazy to keep two toddlers and a 3-year-old who thinks she can swim from going under. John was having beach flashbacks because he kept speed-crawling right toward the edge.
Our night at the hotel, however, did not go nearly as smoothly as planned. The two pack-n-plays remained mostly empty. The babies have rarely traveled in their young, routine-filled lives, and the strange surroundings got to them. Quinn and I had a snugly night where every move one of us made woke the other one up. Around 3 she decided she was up for good. I would drift off and hear breathing, then open my eyes to see her little face staring at me from inches away. I couldn't help but laugh. Finally around 5 I made her a bottle and abandoned the sofa bed we were sharing, falling asleep on the floor while she did the same sprawled out on the bed. Chris had a similar night with John, and finally abandoned the big bed to John and Carly. At one point I woke up and found him sitting in a hard chair, and at 6 am he headed down to the continental breakfast for a hot chocolate. While our trip was fun, that night in the hotel has made us chicken to ever go anywhere ever again.
The next day we were scheduled to see the tulips and other Dutch attractions Holland, MI has to offer. They really play up the Holland thing, with tulips, windmills, and wooden shoes to be found in abundance. As Chris and I drove down State St, it was literally lined with tulips. It was beautiful.
We woke up on Friday to freezing cold windy rain. Welcome to Michigan. I was frustrated because 1) I had been wanting to see the tulips since we moved here, and 2) I packed for summer. We ended up meeting Chris's parents at Walmart, where they purchased shoes and jackets for our crew at the cheapest cost possible, meaning I ended up in a XL hoody off the little girls clearance rack (which Chris so kindly said reminded him of bubble gum: "You look like the jr high queen bee.") and $10 old lady shoes. Carly excitedly picked out some gaudy Tinkerbell shoes, and Chris walked out with a Mr Rogers sweater. At least Quinn got some seriously cute shoes, and John got a glow in the dark Batman shirt. We were a sight to behold, that is for sure. But we were ready to check out some tulips in the freezing rain.
We perused the store with Dutch trinkets of all kinds, including all sorts of wooden shoes. Chris and I got a ornament and a magnet, because you can't go anywhere without getting an ornament and a magnet. And grandma and papa got Carly a mini pair of adorable yellow wooden shoes. The tulips were beautiful, but it was super cold. We were really just enjoying being with papa, grandma, and aunt Sarah. We walked around, shivering and blue-lipped, and snapped some cute pictures, then headed off to warm up at Red Robin.
As it turned out, we did not actually go to the tulip festival. We went to a wonderful tulip garden with a Dutch shop, but the full tulip festival was in downtown Holland. Next year, our final May in Michigan, we are going for reals, and its going to be a warm beautiful sunny day. I won't stand for anything less.
It was a pleasant, exhausting trip. All three of our littles snoozed the entire way home, while I worked to keep Chris awake using graham crackers and roadtrip questions I found on Pinterest. But it was just what the doctor ordered. Some sweet time with my sweet family. The sand and sun. Some beautiful flowers and a little culture. And a Red Robin Royal Burger.
It doesn't get much better than that.