© 2017 by Lauren Wiatrek - Austin, TX
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Reclaiming My Summer That Cancer Stole From Me Part 3

08.08.2018

This. This was the place that we scheduled one year ago. This is my happy place. This place Evan and I visited while dating, we celebrated our 2nd anniversary here, we brought our 6-week-old firstborn here as new parents, we tried to come last year, but had to cancel because of my chemotherapy treatments. I was furious cancer tried to steal my joy… tried to steal my away my love of travel, my love of having quality time with my family. Once I had to cancel all my summer plans, I immediately started planning our summer for 2018. It gave me hope, it gave me a light in the tunnel to have something to look forward to.

We booked our stay at the Mushroom Half House, we were elated to bring our second born to her namesake: Charlevoix, Michigan. We arrived to a hot day, perfect for Lake Michigan Beach. We unpacked with huge grins on our faces, Evan and I exchanging quick kisses in between shuffling our belongings inside. We threw on our swimsuits and walked a block to the beach. The sun was shining, the water was crystal blue, I was here.

 

 

I prayed aloud, as tears pricked my eyes, thanking God for my life. Thanking God for carrying me when I was weak, this very moment where I could look out on the gorgeous lake, feet in the sand, my babies swimming in the chilly waters, and my hubby giving me smiling glances.

 

 

I was so happy to see the girls swimming carefree in the (pretty chilly) waters where I spent my summers as a kid. My dreams as a parent were unfolding. I cherished my summers in Northern Michigan and wanted to share that love with my own children one day, now it was happening. We finished up our swim and headed back to get ready for dinner. It was Father’s Day and we were ready for our favorite: Villager’s Pub for their famous whitefish and chips from the waters of Lake Michigan. We got some local brew and toasted to our favorite man…loyal, hard-working, hilarious and always ready to play with his baby girls. We gave daddy some presents and then stopped by our other favorite: Kilwin’s for some Traverse City Cherry Ice Cream to share on the grassy harbor, watching the sailboats sway in the evening waters.

 

That week was full of one of a kind memories: sandcastles being built, laugher amongst the waves, searching for Petoskey stones (kissing them and throwing them back for the legend of Mother Bear), wandering through Lavender fields, picking out fresh fish from John Cross Fish Market, grilling dinners and spending as many waking hours as possible outside.

 

Watching our four-year-old skinny dip in Lake Michigan, hearing her yelp with glee and liberation as she enjoyed her childhood summer. Watching our two-year-old, twirl and grin while feeling the sand between her toes for the first time. Walking downtown to wander around Bridge Street, stopping in Cherry Republic for the chocolate covered cherry samples, driving on winding roads with tall, green trees as far as the eye could see. Having a mother daughter date with my firstborn, holding her hand, giving her my undivided attention, hearing her say, “Mommy I love your voice.” Watching Evan dance with our daughters on the grassy lawn with Lake Michigan peeking between the trees and gorgeous flowers blooming all around. It was a pretty spectacular week.

 

 

The last day was rainy and cold… we built a fire in the magnificent stone fireplace and cuddled with our girls with books and movies all day. Watching the rain drizzle down from the sky and just breathing in a day of reprieve after being so busy all week long.

 

The Mushroom house itself is pretty incredible. It looks like mushroom, built by Earl Young, stones make up the outside, an old school roof, the inside has blue slate as the flooring. Evan has to duck as he walks inside. The living room has a cozy couch, two leather recliners, and a massive stone fireplace. The master bedrooms was simple with beautiful windows, the window panes are diamond shape and take you back to somewhere in England. The bed is covered with anchor sheets and a cozy quilt. The kitchen was fit for one person to maneuver around comfortably. It is quaint and has cute little nooks and crannys filled with quirky art and charming details. There is surprisingly an upstairs, which Halen and Henley loved, a perfect nook for kiddos to play and sleep. Tours, buses, and cars pass all day taking pictures of this house. It feels sort of funny when you are staying there, “Do I get up from my chair so they can take a picture?” Would pass through our minds as the vehicles rolled past.

 

Our hearts hung as we packed up to leave the Mushroom house.

 

 

It was certainly a different visit than years earlier, instead of snuggles in the cozy bed just Ev and I, a little person or two would nuzzle their way into our arms. Our days were split up by naps and always focused on their girls and what would bring them joy. Evan and I decided coming up in the winter, just us would be pretty amazing…seeing this charming, Fresh port town covered in snow… making a huge fire, cozying up and relaxing sans kids… but for this trip it served its perfect purpose. Thank you to my wonderful Godfather for allowing us to enjoy this gem each summer.

 

Our eighth stop was Mackinaw City/Mackinac Island.

 

After Charlevoix, we took M-31 through the tunnel of trees to Mackinaw City. We chose a simple one bedroom cabin at the KOA to avoid any chilly nights and rain. (We had almost had our fill of camping in tents with littles by this point.) The cabin was perfect, the grounds had a playground, swimming pool and was clean and pretty. We got settled and prepared for our big day the next day.

 

The next day we decided to explore Mackinac Island…this place also held a special spot in my heart. I grew up coming here since I was a kid. It is a pretty gorgeous place… it is like taking a trip back into time. Cars are not allowed on the island, you take a ferry there and everything is pulled by bicycle or horses. The girls loved watching the horses trotting by. We were grateful for a sunny day, in Northern Michigan summer go to outfit is usually shorts, a sweatshirt and either flip flops (for a beach day) or tennis shoes (for hiking and exploring). We decided to rent a tandem bike pulling the girls around the island, which was 8 miles. It was such a happy moment for me, I loved the air brushing across my face, I loved looking out at the turquoise waters, I loved looking back at my smiling girlies. It gave us a chance to be active and show the girls where daddy and I had rode a bike just us. Last time with baby Halen, we walked around… I was very happy we chose the bike route this trip, although Evan vows it is his last time to bike around the island… I am thankful he entertains my whimsy and we can do adventurous things together.

 

 

 

Afterwards, we walked around the cute main street and found some yummy sandwiches, fruit and sparkling mommy daddy drinks… we sat on the lawn by Fort Mackinac and enjoyed the breezy afternoon overlooking the shores of Lake Huron. Then we mosied around the island, found some quintessential fudge (triple chocolate sea salt caramel) and explored the cute town. We sat on rocking chairs on the porch of a hotel and watched the waves crash on the shore before heading back to the ferry. It was a great day.

 

The following day we spent at the campsite, swimming, playing at the playground and our outing of enjoying hot dogs at a local spot in town.

 

Coming up was my much-awaited family reunion in Glen Arbor, Michigan. 

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