Posted by: thatjen | July 28, 2006

Fistulas, Friends, Food, and Fun

Here follows a report on our weekend “Up North”*, written jointly by Em, Brooke, Jen and Cait. It is worth noting that we had employed a complex and democratic process in which Sanna chose the first writer by drawing straws (and putting them in her mouth), thus choosing Emilin (no favoritism there) but Jen is a control freak and took over, so she’s writing first. – Jen

J: We’ve been discussing and planning this trip for a while, and I was really looking forward to it – but also, if truth must be told, a little nervous. Going away (really away) with three people we’ve known online and met a couple of (quite fun) times briefly was a leap of faith. What if they thought we weren’t cool enough? What if we just didn’t click for 4 days?

E: What if, by chance, no fewer than ten of my relatives, one surgical biopsy, two weddings, and a graduation party interfered with the joy that was to be our only vacation since 2003? We concluded that, come hell or high water, we could make it work. What were our other choices? Friday evening, after a long week, a short operation, and an even shorter recovery period, Jen, Cait, and Natalie arrived at our home. Let the vacation begin!

C: Jen picked up a rental minivan while Natalie and I remained trapped in familyville. As soon as we were able to escape, we drove to Emilin and Brooke’s, introduced them to Natalie, talked through some logistics, washed some diapers, and then crashed. The real fun began the next morning when Sanna and Natalie said their first hellos. Sanna chatted, bubbled, and tested Natalie’s toes to see how firmly they were attached. Natalie drooled and grinned, and occasionally added a word or two. The moms watched, played, and then remembered that they were supposed to be packing and loading the car if they were ever going to make it out of town.

B: Stories of loading the van and all the extra things we needed to do which pushed back our departure are not interesting to, well, anyone, so I’ll skip that part except to say that the van had New Jersey plates which I found odd. We talked and laughed (note: we did this a lot) and stopped for food (this too). When we got to the house, Sanna pulled Natalie’s socks off, Jen marveled at the amount of alcohol in the fridge, and the adults stayed up too late talking.

J: The next morning was a perfect vacation morning: sleeping in (to the extent possible with a 3-month-old and a 5-month-old in the house), lounging in pajamas, rolling over, reading, chewing on toes and toys, and bird watching and identification. Then we loaded the girls back into the van and set off in search of sights to see – or ice cream, whichever came first. To our delight, we quickly discovered an excellent ice cream parlor and fortified ourselves for the next leg of our journey to Lake Michigan.

E: The State of Michigan has established many scenic overlooks along highways for the purpose of endearing people to its sights. Some scenic overlooks are more of an attraction than others—some are simply an extra wide shoulder, and others include picnic tables, drinking fountains, latrines, and those binoculars on stands that cost a quarter. We pulled over at one of the wide shoulder scenic overlooks first, and there, to our horror, was a convertible containing a man and a woman making out! The nerve of those people, flaunting their sexuality! There were children in our car! Worse yet, the car had Nevada plates! …All that aside, it was at the next overlook, one with all the features previously mentioned, that I made and missed several phone calls to and from the hospital where my surgery had taken place two days earlier.

C: After climbing enough stairs to clearly establish how out of shape we are, especially when wearing children, we had a fabulous view of the lake. And cell phone reception from Wisconsin. Natalie carved** her name into the railing, and we moved on. We drove on to get a closer look at the lake. The girls slept through most of our initial walking on the beach, so we entertained ourselves by walking on the pier and trying to determine what creature created the bizarre hairy white splotches on it. When the girls awoke, we dipped their toes in the lake. By then we were getting hungry, so we left in search of sustenance.

B: We ate dinner at a little restaurant near the lake, although we did decline their special. After dinner we dropped Jen, Cait, and Natalie off at the house and headed to the ER. There we waited while a boy with a head injury, a girl with a fractured skull, two men who’d been in a boating accident, and one prisoner were treated. The ER doc called the same people we’d been in (and out of) touch with all day and told us to go home and call them in the morning. On the plus side, we did establish that there is indeed a Culver’s in Michigan.

J: The three of us had a quiet evening at the house (though I am EXCEEDINGLY capable of envisioning Very Bad Things and consequently stayed up very late, but not quite late enough, waiting for the NTM family to return). Given that all of the adults had been up past midnight, and the girls were up later than usual, we all slept late. This was a bit unfortunate, as we’d planned to get up early to take the diapers to the laundromat. (It is a very good thing if you are a cloth-diapering family to go on vacation with another cloth-diapering family, as they will not regard you as insane for wanting to spend a couple of your precious few hours watching undergarments spin around.) But more on that later. The babies were remarkable, allowing us (er, Brooke) to cook and eat a delicious breakfast before heading off on the day’s van odyssey.

E: After establishing that we did not need to launder diapers until the evening, we packed them into the back of the van in a delightful variety of used-diaper vessels (a trash bag and a few different sizes and styles of wet bags). This little trip we took, you know, was last weekend. In July. In the northern hemisphere. In a vehicle with windows. The greenhouse effect, whether or not you believe it is happening to the planet Earth, happens to minivans. We were rank. So we went to a world-renowned chocolatier! The people inside the chocolate shop were very understanding, all things considered, and they gave us samples and showed us around. I lactated in (but not on!) their driveway, and we bought many different kinds of truffles. On our way out, Cait called a family friend, and the chocolatier and her daughter gave us directions into town so we could properly get there.

C: We drove down a long, windy road past hippies camping in a meadow to visit Grandma Mary. She’s not my grandma, but everyone calls her that. She’s the grandma dyke in my mom’s circle of friends who moved to the woods of Northern Michigan several years back. In these years, she, her son, and her son’s partner have built an absolutely breathtaking homestead. I can’t come up with the words to describe the beauty of the trees, the structures, and the sense of serenity, so I won’t even try. Rejuvenated by the visit, we strapped the girls back into their seats, drove back out past the hippies, and headed for Sleeping Bear.

B: We stopped at a roadside cherry stand where all purchases are on the honor system and a big selling point is that the fruit is washed. We snacked on cherries in the van and drove on the Scenic Drive which featured 12 km (7.4 miles) of drive and 12 points of scenic. We walked out along the boardwalk and saw the actual Sleeping Bear Sand Dune. We also were implored to love God by people who don’t seem to care so much about the preservation of creation. Then we returned to the car where Jen and Em read through the brochure (featuring the metric system) rapidly because the girls were losing patience with all this into/out of the carseat business. The van was not getting any fresher.

J: After the girls ate, which did wonders to restore their patience, the moms – particularly the nursing ones – were hungry, so we headed to Glen Something***, home of the Cherry Republic. We snacked our way around the Republic (mmmm cherry barbeque sauce mmmmm) after which Cait was no longer desperate for dinner, but rather thinking she could eat sometime soon. The nursing moms, however, were still ravenous. Thusly, we looked for a restaurant, but everyone else in Glen Something was similarly hungry so the best we could do was an outside table next to a LOUD band in. the. rain. And poor Sanna’s moms would not let her eat.

J:****After dinner, and after the rain cleared up and the annoying band stopped playing, we loaded ourselves back into the van and left in search of cell-phone reception, laundry, and Culver’s, not necessarily in that order. The girls were, on the whole, marvelous travelers, but teeny (and not so teeny) babies have their limits. And they hit them. Loudly. (If you listen very carefully, you can hear two babies, one mom singing, one mom shushing a baby and one mom shushing the singing mom. You cannot hear the mom videotaping.)

E:***** On our way into Traverse City, land of Laundromats, Culver’s, and cell towers, I called my voicemail, only to learn that the breast clinic cannot be relied upon to do anything right (I should have removed the damn thing myself with a pen knife or a plastic straw), and they called the wrong phone number. Furthermore, they left an inadequate message a mere eleven hours earlier. For Pete’s sake. Already annoyed, I tried to work my magic on the dude at the Laundromat who insisted that we couldn’t possibly put in even one little load, even if we swore up and down to be gone before he closed. “If I let you do it, I’d have to let everyone do it, and then I’d have two hundred people outside those doors.” Right. Surely. What could I have been thinking? When he told Jen to “go buy some Pampers,” I threatened to run back in there and leak out of the fistula at him. Brooke went into the grocery store where there was a display (a display! (or, alternately, a display?)) of phone books, only after ensuring that Jen and Cait had me properly wrangled.

C: We decided to skip the diaper washing in favor of ice cream and sleep. We were getting used to the smell, and besides, it keeps car-jackers away. Yeah. ‘Cause there’s a lot of car-jackers Up North. Ummm…the smell keeps the mosquitoes away? OK, fine. We’re lazy bums who will do anything to ensure that we make it to Culver’s before it closes. But we were doing it for Moxie. And it was goooood. (Seriously, Moxie, we saw the sign for Culver’s on our way up and discussed it, and you, all weekend. But I digress.)

B: Breakfast the next morning consisted of corn on the cob, tomatoes and basil, parmesan cheese, three pieces of toast, yogurt, berries, cherries, and a partial bowl of cereal. You know, the food we didn’t want to lug home. We piled all our stuff in the van and headed home. On the way we ate lots of chocolate. We’d also washed the diapers, so the van smelled much better. There was much rapid unpacking of the van so it could be returned on time (or at least close). And then vacation was over. Only not really because we got back together to eat more chocolate and compose the longest blog post ever. We’re trying to decide where to go next summer and/or what city to all move to.

* “Up North” for those of you, like me (Jen), who are not from Michigan, means Northern Michigan. Not that little sticky-out extra bit of Michigan, but the part that would be represented by the back of your hand and your fingers. Michiganders, you see, have this disease, where they stick out a hand in greeting and say, “Where ya from?” and then point to a part of their hand, usually near the thumb.

** No, not really. Natalie is skilled, but not that skilled, and if she were, we certainly wouldn’t encourage it. Who do you think we are?

***My picky-ass Michigan editors tell me (Jen) it’s actually called “Glen Arbor,” which I can’t tell apart from Ann Arbor. What-ever.

****Yes, it’s not supposed to be my turn. Right of Eminent Butt in the Typing Chair. So There.

*****Finally. Sheesh.



  1. Love, Love, LOVE all the pictures. Emilin, you have the coolest tee-shirt ever (the brenda weiler one) and in the picture of all of you by the lake I think it’s hilarious that three of you seem to have the exact same shoes on!

  2. hi–long-time lurker here, thanking you for this post…i’ve recently moved to michigan and am heading Up North this weekend (i don’t have a baby or partner to bring, so it’s just one roommate and 2 kayaks) and you’ve gotten me really excited about it!

  3. Hiya, Trista! I’m a long-time BW fan. I feel like I wear that shirt all the time and almost didn’t bring it on the trip, but I’m glad I did. 🙂 Good to know there’s another BW fan out there.

  4. That was the BEST post ever!!! I felt like you took all of us along with you. (omg that chocolate shop looked amazing.)
    & the video with the girls? adorable!!!

  5. I think I lost track of the amount of ice cream/custard/chocolate consumed — that means it must have been an excellent trip!

  6. Hope is clearly someone else I could vacation with. It’s all about the food (preferably dessert).

  7. I live in the same city as Brooke and Emilin which means of course I’m familiar with the U.P. and i loved this post (and pictures) it was like my own mini-vacation without the stink 🙂

  8. Awesome post!!! Very entertaining! 🙂

  9. Sounds like you guys had a fabulous time. All that chocolate!!! I could hardly pay attention to what was going on.

    Youtube is being weird, but I’ll come back later and try to watch the videos again.

  10. This was so much fun to read (and view). Based on the chocolate alone you are definitely people whose company I could enjoy.

  11. Narda and I had fun staying up late reading this, and plan to copy you to a degree and do a joint blog entry about our vacation.

    And ditto Trista – LOVE the pictures and video!

  12. Chocolate… ice cream… cherries… there should be a warning up at the beginning of this post about nursing moms not reading this on an empty stomach!
    Sounds like a fantastic trip. Did you guys camp at all? I think of doing that, but I wonder how it would work with two 9 mo olds.

  13. That was the BEST vacation I never took! I had a blast!
    However, we used paper diapers on our beach vacation. Mostly because her mother would NOT let us use cloth. But I did draw the line at overnights and naps and we used cloth for that…
    Sounds like you guys had a blast! I love the pictures!

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