The Cottage

Every year, we are so blessed to be able to go to Townsend and stay at our friends' cottage for a week.  This week, we stayed from Thursday night until Tuesday.  When we first started going to the cottage, the kids were 6, 4, 4, and 2.  I remember enjoying that time, but it definitely had its challenges.  In fact, I think we left earlier than we originally planned both that year and the year after.  We thought that's just how we vacationed and that our family wasn't one that could stay so long.

Now, at 10, 8, 8, and 6, we realize that it was our kids' ages, not our personalities, that made it so challenging.  Seriously, every moment is SO much easier and SO much fun with them.  Part of that is their ages, but I think it's also that they know our expectations of our time at the cottage after being up there so many times.  We have no TV, unless we're doing a family movie night.  No screens at all, we completely unplug.  And it's my very favorite thing to do.  We color, play cards and board games, swim and jet ski, build puzzles and read.  And, we eat a lot of good food.  It is some amazing family time, and my heart is always so full on these trips.  It quiets so much of the noise of life.  I realize that our kids really DO enjoy each other, even if I don't always get to see that in the rush of day to day.

This is the trip I look forward to so much each year because I really believe it strengthens our ties to one another.  I know that it's these times our kids will look back on and remember with fondness when they're long grown and having families of their own.  Their childhood is now, and Townsend, WI will always be one of the sweetest parts of it.

We couldn't contain our grins, even as packing the car was NOT an easy feat.  We couldn't wait to be up North!

We got in late Thursday night, and started Friday morning off right by getting right into the lake!  I thought the water was a bit chilly, but it didn't stop these guys from swimming right out to the dock!

Maurah's arms got tired swimming back, so Cole said, "Grab onto my legs!  You kick your legs and I'll use my arms!"  It made for some great giggles on their way back to shore!

Cole took this of us and it's one of my favorites.  Jake said to me at one point, "I love you on vacation."  I right away took that to tease him that I'm glad he loves me one week out of the year.  Ha!  But we really do just get to be US on vacation - the responsibilities and noise of the real world are drowned out and we get such good time together.  So thankful for this guy.

This year, we had a special treat and got to have some friends come and hang with us for one of the days.  They were staying at their cabin the same week, and were only a half hour away.  And what better place to meet up than our favorite candy shop?!?  I made the Lindmark kids get in our obligatory family picture.  Every time we drive to the shop, I say, "What's the candy store rule?"  And the kids begrudgingly say, "No candy unless we take a picture."  Sure, it's bribery, but it works!

Oh boy - these two right here are trouble with a capital T!

Once the evening glow came in and the adults were done jet skiing and swimming, the kids entertained themselves with mudpies galore.

Lots and lots of cartwheels were done...

That light!  I couldn't get over it...

We had a beautiful boat ride all around the flowage.  Love this photo of my friend and her baby girl.

And then there were the "tweens," who we had to keep reminding to turn off their screens and see the real life happening right before their eyes!  How we got to this stage, I have no idea!  I blinked and it happened, it seems...

Then, we finally just said, "No screens allowed!"  And look at these beauties - love them to bits.

One of the huge highlights for me was that a bald eagle flew over us.  I have never seen one in real life, aka, outside of a zoo.  He was absolutely breathtaking.

Just majestic.

The loons are a favorite of the kids' too.  We love hearing them at night as they lull us to sleep and in the early morning - well, we love hearing them in the night - but I could appreciate them more in the morning if they had a vacation alarm clock like I do!

This guy is growing way too fast for me.  He is going into the fifth grade and is getting ready to start tackle football next month.  Five nights a week, plus Saturdays.  Again, I blinked and we're here.  I love who he's growing to be, and find so much joy in the relationship we have together, but can't help but reminisce about when he was 3 and 4, just like our friends' littles.

Like this guy!  Everything he does is so cute, even when he's naughty.  That's the best part about not being the parent of a preschooler!  You can appreciate the funny in the naughty so much more and not have to be all serious and doling out consequences!  Ha!  This guy is a treasure.

My friend kept telling us to look at her hubby as he drove the boat.  Definitely a happy captain right there!

All the Lindmark boys...

These photos of Laina are completely out of focus, but I love them because she is just a crazy nut and they showcase that perfectly!  Joy follows this girl wherever she goes!

That toothless grin - she melts me!

We got back from our sunset ride and started a fire for s'mores.  I'm kicking myself I didn't get photos of those!  I was too busy roasting the perfect marshmallows!  ;)  The girls played lots of Concentration - I love this game because it brings back memories of playing clapping games like it with my friends and it always includes a lot of giggles!

Luke kept a good eye on the fire...

We had SUCH a great visit with these friends.  I'm so thankful they made the trip to be with us this day!  It was easily one of the best days of summer this year!!

We settled back into "normal" life at the cottage, which truly is not that difficult.  We headed to our favorite ice cream stand.  It was super hot, so we struggled to eat our ice cream before the heat took care of it!

Laina finished her ice cream and was in her own little world.  I love this capture of her because she is just loving life.  It's such a picture to me of enjoyment and gratitude.

Maurah was playing with my camera and got this photo of me.  I'm thankful for having moments like this captured because this is some of the sweetness of real life that sometimes gets buried and forgotten.  All of my kids are huggers, and I'm so thankful for that.  Sometimes, I want to not be touched and want to say, "not right now," but then I see this where I've got my bookends - my youngest and my oldest - and I am reminded of how quickly this time goes.  How I thought that Cole was so big when he was six because we had two four year-olds and a two year-old.  I'm sure I didn't carry him like I am Laina in this photo.  I'm thankful he still comes to give hugs and I hope that never changes.  And, I'm going to continue to work on making time and space for hugs whenever they're asked for.

We drove to Antigo to see The Secret Life of Pets.  We were all tired and a special movie theater date was just what we needed.  We had gotten goggles on the way to have back at the cottage and it cracked me up to turn around and see the view...

The girls have been reading old Babysitter's Club Little Sister books, both mine and some that I've salvaged at Goodwill.  I feel like it's a piece of my childhood that I get to share with them.  It connects us in this unique way as we talk about the characters I felt so fondly about at their age.  I absolutely love it.

The next day, we spent most of the day in the water.  These two came up with the most fun imaginative play and were as happy as could be for HOURS as they came up with ideas together.  They play together so well and it's so fun to watch.

Cole and Maurah are at a crucial point in their relationship.  Both are alpha personalities, Cole because he's the oldest, and Maurah because she was born a fighter.  This paddleboat trip started off with a conflict, but Jake and I decided the best thing for them would be to sit on that boat for a good length of time until they could connect in a positive way.  Those smiles coming back into shore show that the time was worth it and paid off.  I'm confidant that someday they'll learn that they can have so much more of an impact on this world if they work together, rather than argue about whose way is the right way.  We all have to learn this in some capacity, and what better training ground than right here in a safe place with your family.

Evening fishing...

More cartwheels...

More bald eagle sightings...

More Concentration...

Some highlights from the trip:  We played Catch Phrase with the kids, and we weren't sure if they would all enjoy it or be able to play it.  It's challenging to find a family game where a ten year-old and a six year-old have the same shot at winning and enjoy it.  But, this game turned out to be a hit!  Laina was actually the best clue-giver out of all of us!  Hayden had a couple of laughs as she tried to describe her words.  The first was that she was pretending to wipe off her bottom, only very dramatically, so we had no idea what she was even doing.  Jake looked at the word, and he said, "No, this is the OTHER kind!"  She was trying to describe paper towel, but using motions for toilet paper.  No wonder we got it wrong!  Then, she would kiss her hands and then act like she was baking something, slapping her hands together and on the table.  We had NO IDEA what she was doing, so Jake again looked at her words and said, "Nope!  Don't do that one!"  Let's just say there are some adult ideas in Catch Phrase we didn't know about!  We all got a really good laugh out of it, though!

Jake has been working through a book where he draws every day, working on a new sketch.  He has been doing some side work with graphic design for some friends here, and really wants to stretch his abilities.  Laina was incredibly impressed with his sketch one morning and said, "Wow - I thought you married a guy for looks, but I guess you marry for the skill like mom did!"  We about died laughing!  She always keeps us on her toes with her commentary!

Hayden and I were scheduled for a date during our time at the cottage.  I gave her the option of going to the local coffee shop or going on a run.  She decided going on a run, so we got all ready and headed out.  As I started a jogging pace, she sprinted ahead of me.  I said, "Wait!  We have to run slowly because we're running for a few miles and we can't keep that pace the whole time!"  She just kept running as fast as she could and said, "I don't know how to control my speed!"  I caught up to her at the end of the road and she was panting like crazy.  She said, "Can we just do the coffee shop instead?"  We raced each other home and got ready for a coffee shop date instead.  And I'm so glad we did because that time together was so special.

We got our drinks and then walked around the little shop.  Hayden was particularly captivated by the blingy hats.  In true Hayden form, she wanted to get something for everyone else.  So, the girls each got a little bracelet and Cole got bear poop, (chocolate covered sunflower seeds).  We had the best conversation, and I love how she is just open and thoughtful about her answers to my questions.  I'm so thankful we're instilling dates into our schedule again.  They're great for the kids, but they're great for this mama's heart too.  And they teach me so much.  

So grateful for this girl right here.  I can't help but get reminiscent at times when I remember that we almost didn't have her or Maurah.  I can't imagine what this life would be like without them.  This girl is going to change the world with her love and compassion for others.  We all need her.

This place is glorious.  It captures my heart in a new, deeper way each time we are there.  We left with hearts full and already anticipating the next time we get to be together in this place.

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