South Haven with Kids

In the past (aka: every year of my life), my summer vacations have taken me to our familiar beach house on quiet Bald Head Island. Because of circumstances out of our family’s hands, we had to sell the home where our hearts belonged and are now out in the world of planning new beach vacations.


Where would we go? We didn't want crowds, nor a 12 hour drive or flight. I’d seen beautiful photos and heard stories of how wonderful the Lake Michigan coast can be. So, we thought we would find out for ourselves by trying out South Haven. At a mere 5 hours away, we were excited to go see what Michigan is all about. 


Our cottage
By far, the location of our cottage was the best part of our whole experience. I could definitely get used to walking across the street to the general store (which serves Sherman’s Ice Cream), 2 blocks to the beach, and a longer walk across the fun drawbridge to downtown. If you go, I would definitely recommend staying as close as you can to Dyckman Avenue/North side. You’ll want access to the drawbridge, which is the only way to get to the other side of the Black River. 



We had the right (East) side of the cottage and the other side was empty for most of our stay. At the end of the street is the beach!

This was our favorite establishment in South Haven. Hot dogs? Sand toys? Adult beverages? fresh sandwiches? Yep. 

Renting the cottage was an easy experience through VRBO, and we were lucky to get anything at all with booking just 6 weeks before we traveled. Do not wait this long!  It was clean and tidy, and had some great bonuses like a beach wagon, beautiful deck, and a fenced in yard for playing. But it was super small. We were on top of each other most of the time, and really missed having a dining table. We don't need a lot of space, but...this was a squeeze for us to be comfortable. 

Staying Busy

Like I said, the beach was at the end of our street. Dyckman was a small beach with private beaches on both sides. You can walk across the private beaches, just not set up camp there. We took several walks from Dyckman to North Beach, which is the perfect distance for little ones. There, you can find a simple slide and some swings. You can NOT access the lighthouse from here. 


 The perfect walk for this little guy, who was way too busy exploring to play in the water. 


Across the drawbridge, the downtown is adorable. We loved Harbor Toy Store, The Blueberry Store, and the various souvenir shops of course. This is a great place for moms to come during nap time and just browse all the pretty things. My favorite shop was Plaid Britches, with cute and trendy women’s clothes and accessories.






Also across the bridge is the catwalk to the South Haven Lighthouse on South Beach. It is a little tricky with a stroller, but definitely doable. You’ll need to hold hands, as there is no railing into the water. No one wants a swim lesson like that. There are informational signs all over the area to tell you about the history of the area and light house. 








South Beach is definitely more active than North Beach, and was our kids’ favorite area. The playground is huge, there is a great snack shack with lunch items and Sherman’s Ice Cream, and public restrooms. Sidenote: the neighborhoods surrounding South Beach are full of the CUTEST Victorian houses you’ve ever seen. Take a walk up the hill if you are a sucker for beautiful homes. 

One day, we drove out of South Haven to the zoo in Grand Rapids (John Ball Zoo). I loved all the shade, the natural play area, and the reasonable price ($35ish for our family of four). And everyone loves a zoo, right? Don’t miss the flamingoes and otters, which are up close and personal. 



There are a ton of neighboring cities that I thought we might visit (St. Joe’s, Saugatuck), and we just didn’t need to do it. Maybe when the kids are older and get bored more often (insert eye-roll here), that would be on the agenda. But for the 8 and under crowd, there’s really no reason to leave South Haven if they like the beach. 

There is a bike trail called Kal-Haven, which is supposed to be a great ride. This is a perfect town for bike-riding!

Eats
The days of taking both kids out to restaurants are kind of over for now, unfortunately. We do a lot of carry-out or just taking Larkyn out. On our trip, we mostly cooked in our cottage and then had meals from:

I know...I tried to switch seats with her, but she was intent on sitting here. In front of the giant MGD.

Maria’s Taste of Italy: We got amazing stuffed shells and pizza. Their gelato bar and housemade desserts looked great, too, but we had eaten about 12 desserts by dinner time. ALSO, they have an entire root beer menu for aficianados. 
Su Casa: This has a great patio overlooking the patio. I would recommend getting a drink and trying their chips and avocado salsa. This would be a good snack place to recharge. 
Captain Lou’s: Say hello to our favorite meal of the trip! Leave time to enjoy, as the wait time is not great (but the food and music are!) The fried shrimp and the Cajun fish tacos were SO good. Bonus: you get to watch the bridge go up and down while you wait (pictured above).
Bunde’s Bakery: One thing that will get me motivated in the morning is knowing that Starbucks is waiting. This bakery has the full Starbuck's menu, in addition to satisfying muffins, turnovers, coffee cakes, and pecan rolls, etc. I didn't get to try the fabulous looking ice cream bars in the corner, and that may be my biggest regret of the entire trip. 



The Weather

We knew that Michigan would not be HOT compared to the Southern vacations we usually take. But some days were pretty chilly. If you like warmer temps, definitely wait until July. But the water was not as freezing as we had heard. Larkyn did not hesitate to get in, so that tells me it wasn't freezing. Some nights, the water was warmer than the air, and felt great. Just bring a variety of layers and you'll be good. 

 Harborfest (This day was HOT...)

This day was cold!

We had fun exploring this quaint little lakeside town, and it was perfect for our pace. Next up, just photos and stories from our trip. 

A Million Reasons to Love Summer

And none of them involve scrolling on my phone. I am trying HARD to break my addiction of mindless phone-wandering. My brain has become wired to want to see all the pretty things and stay "informed" on what national holiday it is or what sort of buffoon comment will come from the podium of #45. I digress. 


This summer, there are so many other things to look forward to that will make me forget about my phone. Like breakfast on the deck and the first two hours with no devices (except for me because our neighbor's awesome dog barks at 5 AM, so I will do some scrolling then, thank you). 

Like going to the farm. I tell ya, Stratford is the perfect place to forget about phones and everything else while they play until it's significantly past nap time. I am so happy we met up with our friends from The Diaperbag Diaries for the day.










And yes, catching up with friends in general. We went to a concert today and the kids were so excited to see neighbors, school friends, and the Shazzbots. I am taking the kids to the sitter once  week-ish this summer to allow more time for actual conversation over adult food. 


Let it be known that this child, does indeed like music, as long as no one acknowledges it.

Staying out late. I LOVE for those summer nights when we are drowsily driving (Don't worry, I'm not the drowsy one) home from a night well-spent as the sun sinks over a favorite park or in the backyard of a friend. 

Lunches at home. This is a weird one, but I do not miss trying to figure out lunch for myself and Larkyn each day. We are much healthier (and save $!) by foraging out of our fridge of few months.

All the meals will be spent outside until further notice!

Purging stuff. I can't get it out of here fast enough. 

E! on TV.  Not sure if that is any better than the phone, but I feel like following a storyline is probably good for my mental strength (ha!)  I am not going to go as far as saying I will read a novel this summer, but we can hope. 

Planning my big move to second grade is going to be good for my mind. I mentioned in my last post that I was struggling to find enjoyment and was a little stagnant in my 12 year kindergarten position. The only way to grow sharper is to try something new or throw a good old challenge into the mix, in my opinion. I hope to use this summer to plan my classroom, my first few weeks, and get to know what second grade is all about. 

So, that wasn't a million. Do you find yourself wanting to look at your phone 1,000 times per day? 









Breathe

It has been almost half a year since I've written. I have wanted to, thought about it, but just haven't done it. A few weeks ago, a friend said "I miss your blogging." I said, "There are plenty of people blogging about what to do in Columbus, and they are much more focused than I was..." To which she replied, "No. I mean I miss your voice."  Oh.

If you have followed along my social media path (Facebook and Instagram), you have heard me complain (sorry) about the way 2017 has unfolded. It has been one big steaming pile of job dissatisfaction, working my tail off for a different job that was dissolved after I interviewed, Our house almost burning down and the subsequent smoke cleaning, and most recently the unexpected death of my father in law on May 18th.

Suffice to say...my head has been absolutely churning with ideas, but no time to get them out. Until I was scouring my father in law's Facebook page to collect photos for his funeral video. In between the alternating photos of grandkids and cars, there were links to all my posts. He complimented them and shared my writing with his friends. I had no idea, but it motivated me.

So, where to begin?  I have a lot of ideas. But I'll start with a favorite tradition of ours and our fresh breath of summertime...strawberry picking.
 First, I'll start with the time my heart exploded. His face might be slightly unfocused, but that strawberry smile kills me.

 This one is titled "I wanted you to see the back of her dress"

 Pretty sure this kiddo will have a farm one day. 


 He's stolen my heart. Sometimes he throws it back at me when he is hauling ass through a serene field of flags, but for the most part...I'll keep him.

Pig: "Uh, yeah...were you going to give me something to eat, or....?"

And I did mention we were picking berries, right?  We got a little caught up with the farmer's animals and the "Old MacDonald had a Farm", which is what Rhys calls anything resembling a barn.

 Everything is a race. Everything. 

 "Look, mom. I'm a tree. Can you see me?"

 And this guy, who won't touch a strawberry at home, did the old "pick one, eat one". 

 I was so proud of both of them. The last two years with this activity have been my cardio for a week, chasing him up and down the rows.



 She got a sour one!



 This efficient little lady filled up two containers. No idea what we are going to do with them.

 Sorry. No, I'm not. 



This makes me wonder what or who was behind me.

Like I said, we have done this every year since Rhys was born, so this is our 4th picking. Definitely, definitely our easiest. No wipe-outs in the parking lot, no electric fence scares, and no Olympic sprint competitions. I'd say our summer has started off on the right foot. 
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