Posts Tagged 'travel'

Do “North”

view on Mackinac Island

I’ve lived in Michigan for over four decades; my wife was an Air Force brat growing up around the world, but her roots were always in the mitten state. Together we ate in New Buffalo, swam in Lake Superior, and tailgated at our alma mater numerous times. So it’s amazing that neither of us ever hopped on the ferry to Mackinac Island. That changed in a recent family road trip “Up North.”

First off, let’s talk “Up North.” Where does it start for you? Past Midland? West Branch? Gaylord or crossing the mighty Mac? For our family, we consider “Up North” anything past the 45th parallel is north. We even make sure that everyone lifts their feet so no one trips over the imaginary latitude line that crosses over the highway.

We’re lucky enough to have family all over “Up North” which is great because it helps keep costs down, but more importantly gives us a little more time to reconnect with those we don’t get to see enough. And truthfully, it gives our girls the time to meet family for the first time and create a bond that can be built on for years to come.

One evening, my wife and I went to her class reunion (the reason for the trip) and had to leave our girls with family they don’t know very well and the plan was to go to a BBQ at another family member’s house they never met.

Our girls are OK at meeting new folks, but they have separation anxiety when we leave them for a longer period of time. But guess what? When we returned, our girls were running around like they’ve been there for years. They met cousins they never knew they had and a neighbor girl who showed them the ropes on the trampoline. The next day there was talk about coming to visit for a week next summer — without us!

Our trip ended on the mainland in the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge. Beautiful part of the state; the mix of tacky shops and history is perfect. Nowhere else can you buy a Mackinaw Strong camo hoodie and learn about how soldiers lived watching out for redcoats. It sets the stage for a whole different world on the island.

The four of us didn’t know what to expect when we got on the ferry to Mackinac Island. We knew we were all going to experience something new as a family. We sat on the second deck of the boat to see the sights. We saw the bridge, buoys up close and personal, and the island itself.

I won’t give you every twist and turn of our Island adventure, but I can say it lives up to the hype. You are transported to a simpler time (if that simpler time had 24 different types of fudge). Our girls learned a lot about the history that is around every turn and they seemed to soak it in.

The point of all of this is that we all experienced something for the first time that we’ll remember for a lifetime. Our state is built for lifelong memories, you just have to go find them and make them.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Choo choo

two girls in front of Chicago skyscrapers

I have to admit I was a little nervous. It’s hard not to be when you go on a mini-vacation with your kids. Don’t get me wrong; my wife and I have done all we can to have our girls travel and we always have a good time.

I’m talking it about it being me — and only me — with the girls. We were headed to Chicago to visit my sister, her husband and my niece, so I had backup at our destination. Not only was it the first time I’m flying solo as a parent on a trip, but it was my first time on a train.

My wife, Becky, took the girls on the same trip a few years back, so the kids were pros riding the train. They told me where they wanted to sit, how to plug in the tablets, and even how to get on the Wi-Fi. The girls pointed out the bathrooms and even where the café car was. They acted like world travelers.

two girls in front of cupcake ATM

In Chicago, we hit all the hot spots a 9 and 6 year old wanted to hit. NikeTown for new shoes for Girls on the Run. Matching outfits for the youngest and her American Girl Doll. We even went to a bakery that had a cupcake ATM (check that one off the bucket list … and who knew it was on my bucket list?).

We weren’t just there to help the American economy, but I can say, “You’re welcome, America!” One of my main goals was for my girls to bond with their new cousin. Being hundreds of miles away from family is tough. Being that far away from one of the cutest kids ever makes it even harder. But we do what we can and by the time we were leaving, the three girls seemed to grow closer.

We walked on to a full train coming home, so full in fact we had to sit in the café car at one of the tables. I thought this would put a damper on the trip because it wasn’t exactly comfortable. But it made for good people watching!

We saw people from all walks of life like college kids heading back to Ann Arbor and moms taking their kids to see their grandparents for spring break. A train is a true melting pot and it provided me with some teaching moments.

It also allowed the girls to teach me a few things. Sure they pick at each other like siblings do, but they truly love each other and they showed it during that 4½ hour ride back by being patient and listening. I also learned that my youngest knows how to deal from the bottom of the desk during a game of war, but that’s for another blog.

It is nice to get a change of venue for some one-on-one time with your children. Shaking up the norm can show you as a parent where you need to help your kids improve, but it also lets you know what you’re doing right. The trip proved that my wife and I are building a pretty good team with our two girls and they’ll be ready to help each other up when they fall down; they may laugh first, but that’s for yet another blog.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.


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