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How We Survived Our Summer Vacation

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

We spent a long weekend in Cossopolis, Michigan, which started first thing Thursday morning (or, really, Monday, when my husband began running around town like a mad man all week to get everything we could possibly need/not need for this four-day road trip). The amount of stuff we jammed into our SUV was pretty amazing—Jay could be a professional packer. And that stuff included the two of us, Preston AND our dog Barkley, who had to sit in the back seat next to Preston for two hours rather than the roomy trunk that was stuffed to the gills with water rafts, toys, food, clothes, diapers, beach towels, more clothes, more diapers, bottles upon bottles of sun block, bug spray, a flashlight or two, paper goods, cooking and cleaning supplies—you name it, we brought it. And this is what you call a “summer vacation”?

The house we rented with our friends (my high school BFF), their two kids and dog (he’s also a Goldendoodle and Barkley’s best dog bud) was great in the fact that it was big enough for all of us and had a couple TVs with DVD players (key for kiddie downtime). But not so great in that it isn’t lived in or even rented out much, so it was A) rather filthy, and B) lacking in everyday household items, like paper towels and extra toilet paper (good thing we brought it!). I’m not going to lie: The first day we got there I had serious doubts about whether we’d be able to stay until Sunday—or, rather, whether I’d be able to stay until Sunday. Preston refused to take a nap when we got there because once he sees water it’s o-v-e-r, plus we tried turning a big closet into a kids’ room that had no air conditioning and was a mess, so that didn’t work out so well. And by refuse to take a nap, I mean he was so freaked out by his unfamiliar surroundings that first day, and over-stimulated at the same time, he was a total trainwreck. And when he’s a total trainwreck, I'm not exactly pleasant to be around either.

So he skipped his nap on Thursday, and that night he also refused to sleep in the crib we rented that we stuck in the messy, hot closet. I was afraid of this happening with a pack-n-play, but this was a regular-size crib—in a closet. Can’t imagine why he didn’t want to be left alone in there!? We finally gave up and let him sleep in bed with us—sleep being the operative word here. He slept great that night once he drifted off around 11 p.m. cuddled up in his daddy's arms; but every time he moved (which was about two times an hour) he wound up lying on my face, or kicking me in the neck.

So Thursday was a little rough going for us…but Friday was a different story. Our first full day there, things took a turn. We were all a little more settled in (and by "all" I mean me). Waking up to the water was total bliss—and it’s where we spent the majority of our time the rest of the weekend. (At least the water was clean.) So what that our oven AND stove didn’t work, and we figured this out only after we bought bags and bags of groceries that needed to be cooked. So what that we found spiders and ants in the tub. So what that every window was draped in cobwebs, with spiders hanging off of them. And that there was some random deli meat left in the fridge, totally exposed, from god knows when. And the cooler outside had leftover water that looked like a swamp. The weather was perfect—80s and 90s all weekend—and the water was one of the cleanest inland lakes around (we were on Diamond Lake, it’s absolutely beautiful). And one of the great perks of renting this particular house (other than it was dirt cheap, no pun intended) was that we had unlimited use of the jet ski and kayaks. So while the house inside was not exactly up to par (such a shame, too, because it had so much potential to be a nice house), the overall accommodations were great. And the king-size bed we slept in, though there was no air conditioning in our part of the house, was big enough for our creepy-crawly friend we found as we were packing up on Sunday (which explains the dozens of bug bites I came home with as a little souvenir).

Bottom line is, we had an amazing weekend, dirt be damned. The highlight for me was jet skiing, my first time going solo. (We even brought Preston on the jet ski with us and he loved it!) That thing goes zero to sixty in three seconds, and I gunned it around the lake several times—totally exhilarating. With Preston we simply idled at three miles per hour. And we took our first family kayak ride, which was also incredible—being out on that lake together was a great bonding experience. Watching the sun set every night, sitting by the fire after all the kids had finally gone to sleep (we changed Preston’s room and he ended up sleeping fine the rest of the time), making s’mores, grilling out, taking the kids for pizza and ice cream, spending hours and hours swimming in the lake with the kids, wearing them out…it was the perfect summer getaway.

Sitting by the fire at night, we made promises to each other that we’d look into buying a lake house together so our kids could grow up like this—that’s the great thing about vacating, you can totally lie to yourself and kind of believe it. But we will rent another house next summer—hopefully for a longer period of time, and maybe one that’s a little cleaner. But the truth is, I’d be more than fine renting this house again (as long as we get it cleaned first).

I discovered something very important on this trip: Preston is obsessed with the water (I mean, OBSESSED), and he didn’t have a single fear about going in a lake, which he had never done before. And I’m a lot more adventurous and adaptable than I thought, too. I also realized that Preston and I are a lot alike. We both take a little while to adapt to new surroundings, but have the same zest for life—and, as my friend's husband pointed out on the trip, we're both extremely “verbose." The kid doesn’t stop talking for a minute…which is one of the things I love most about him. I can’t wait till I can understand everything he’s saying.

The one thing I did hear loud and clear as we were leaving: “Bye water, bye jet ski, bye house, bye boats. Seeyoutomorrowwww.” I had to tell him it would be a little while longer than that. I’m certainly glad we didn’t leave any sooner.

What are some of your best/worst summer vacation experiences? I have two distinct memories from growing up: One of us camping with a group of family friends while it poured on us, and then there was that time we rented a house in the Indiana Dunes that had terrible horse flies. Oddly, isn’t that all part of the fun?  

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