It was almost a year ago now (maybe more, maybe less...I'm not going to try to figure it out) that Liz, Olivia, Elsie (at that time still inside of Liz and referred to only as "Tiny Baby") went on a vacation to Sleeping Bear Dunes (which is in Michigan. Where exactly, I'm not sure... I'm not very good with directions...but it's definitely in a forest like area and near the coast of Lake Michigan. And there are definitely dunes there).
Why write about Sleeping Bear Dunes now, so long after the trip? Well, for a couple of reasons: For one, this was the longest stretch of time that I have ever spent with Olivia uninterrupted and un-distracted, not counting the week after she was just born. I don't remember how long the trip was. It felt like a week...but it was probably only like 2 or 3 days...because I can't imagine we slept in a tent for more than two nights...but in any case...we were away, just together as a family and that doesn't happen much unfortunately so it really stands out in my memory.
It was at Sleeping Bear Dunes where I had one of my most outstanding realizations that Olivia (then only "bearly" 2) was becoming a big girl. She and I were in the tent and she told me, quite matter of factly: 'I need to go potty," And then, with a tilting of the head and questioning squint of the eyes, accompanied by the appropriate high pitched inflection: "Do we have a potty here?"
It was so funny to hear her speak in that high pitched voice, but also amazing to think how brilliant it is that she thought to change her inflection in that way because she was asking a question.
One of Olivia's favorite (if not MOST favorite) games also had its origin during this trip: The Ice Game. Here's how it works: Olivia spots one of those big coolers full of bags of ice that they have outside of gas stations or in a grocery store. She asks, eagerly "Can we spell ICE?" I carry her to the cooler, she points to the letters and says "I. C. E. What does that spell?" I say, "ICE!" And she says, "Look what's inside." I open the cooler, she looks and triumphantly exclaims "ICE!!"She still plays this game now every once in awhile...but the first few times were definitely the best. I think she actually cried a lot when we had to leave the gas station the first time we played. She would have done that all day.
Olivia's other favorite game during our trip was sitting around the campfire and taking turns putting our faces in an empty tupperware container and talking.
Sleeping Bear Dunes is also the place where our little LED lantern received its new name: "Guy Light." If my foggy memory still serves, the lantern was on the ground and she wanted it, but she referred to it as "The Guy". And I said "The Guy Light?" And she said "Yeah, the Guy Light." We've been calling it that ever since. There was a small stretch of time when she used the word "Guy" a lot. [See the post about the roach]. But this stuck...and because Guy Light had a name, it kind of grew into a small part of our family. It now has personality. Olivia will often ask for Guy Light at night if she is resisting going to bed and does not want it to be dark. She doesn't request him as much any more...but he's still there in her dresser.
Although Elsie didn't have much say in what we did on the trip or really much of anything to contribute at all...she was very much present. And in fact one evening as Olivia and I were contentedly playing on the dunes (It was really fun...I got to run down the dune like an airplane and sweep Olivia up into the air) Liz--who was very hungry and ready go--vowed that the new baby would be more like her. Which is to say, less of doddler and quicker and, I guess, hungrier.
Elsie has lived up to this so far. She is definitely more of a mover than Olivia was...extremely active. And also very insistent that we move it when she is ready for something. (I think all babies are like that to some extent, but Olivia seemed to be a little more calm, wheras Elsie, does this sort of grumpy baby shout thing whenever she is not being paid proper attention. Of coure, this may have to do with the fact that Olivia, being our first baby, was always given all of our attention and Elsie has to fight for it more...in any case...) Elsie is also showing a lot of interest in food. She's still only nursing, being that she's only 4 months old, but one gets the impression that she could and would eat anything she could get her hands on. By the way, I'm not implying that Liz is some sort of glutton...but she very much appreciates food. And since she has been either pregnant or nursing for almost 4 years straight I am sure she has learned to appreciate it even more. Gatorade might be fine for atheletes to replenish their nutrients, but how many football players do you see nuring babies on the sidelines?
So, Elsie fulfilled her mother's wish by giving her an ally in the personality battle. And it's just as well. Between Olivia and me the aimless wandering quotient is more than taken care of.
Back to Sleeping Bear Dunes...I think one day, somehow and for some Godforsaken reason we ended up at a foodcourt in a mall that also had an indoor carousel. Olivia rode a bunny the first time around. The second time she wanted to ride "the Happy Horse." The lady who operated the carousel was really intense. She told the children the names of the animals they were riding on (I couldn't tell if she was making up the names on the spot or if she had actually named each animal on the carousel, but I didn't ask) and as the ride was going she took out hand puppets and used them to do what looked like lip syncing to the carousel music...except I don't think the music had words. When the second ride was finished and it was time to get off Olivia cried and cried. As we left she had to talk to the happy horse about why she was sad and eventually she felt better.
And how can I fail to mention! There was a rather dangerous canoe trip in which it began pouring rain which washed off all of our misquito repellent which resulted in all of us getting attacked quite viciously when the rain subsided, but only after nearly crashing into several low branches--one of which came inches away from Olivia's head before I placed her on the canoe floor (which she was not happy about), another of which had a spider web on it and which I nearly drove Liz directly into--and having a debate about whether or not to turn back to the dock because of the impending storm. When we finally did pull in to the dock we were all grumpy, but Olivia's grumpiness was the most memorable. I looked back to check on her as we began to pull in: The hood of her poncho was pulled down over her eyes, she was soaking wet, she was absolutely still and silent and she was forwning with her lower lip puffed out in an expression that I have only ever seen as on toddlers and cartoon characters.
So we learned our lesson. The more you do on a trip, the greater chance for disaster. The next time we go camping, we'll just keep it simple and play talk into the tupperware container...and maybe the Ice Game on the way home.