I know that this, the last installment in Team Stimey’s whirlwind trip around all of Wisconsin, is super late and that seven million things have happened between our last installment and now, but I am a completist (it is too a thing), so I now present to you our last vacation destination from our summer vacation waaaaay back in mid-August.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Lake Van Vliet.
It’s even prettier in person.
After the chaos of the Wisconsin Dells, it was really nice to go to the peace and absolute quiet of Alex’s family cabin on this gorgeous lake. It is this amazingly quiet place where the big activity is driving into town to get ice cream or to go fishing in the lake or—and this is sort of the climax of our trip every time we come here—rowing to a little island in the next lake over to have a picnic.
We had this great little walk on our first morning there on which I took what is probably my favorite photo in the history of photos. Now, I know I say that a lot, but seriously, people, this photo cracks me up every time I look at it.
Confused kids are confused.
I am not sure if they are all confused by different things or the same thing in different directions, but I think we can all agree that Team Stimey Junior is confused.
To give you an idea of the kind of things we did at the lake, there was that afternoon we spent stalking a blue heron from a rowboat.
Actual quote from Alex as we tried to row close to said blue heron: “Will everybody SHUT UP? We are trying to sneak up on a bird.”
You’ll notice that we weren’t super successful in sneaking up close to the bird. My kids are loud, y’all.
Things got louder still after Quinn started asking if he could jump out of the boat. This was our third time visiting this cabin with our kids and none of us has put more than a foot or a hand in this lake, mostly because it is FREEZING COLD.
I don’t think we completely believed that he would actually jump out of the boat when we gave him permission.
How could we have been so naive?
For the record, the water really was frigid. We asked Quinn if he was cold and through shaking lips and chattering teeth, he was all, “n-n-n-ooo.” He was so delighted that he was doing something that his brothers never had.
The little dude actually swam quite a ways. He laughed the entire damn time.
He even swam through seaweed (lakeweed?) under the surface of the lake and lily pads on top. This surprised me. Lake swimming trumps sensory nightmare.
Quinn got to the dock ahead of us. He spent the rest of our vacation reliving his victory in said “race” to the dock.
Alex, being Alex, then told Quinn that he hoped that Quinn hadn’t contracted Lake Madness, to which Quinn replied, “You’re kidding, right?” Alex, again, being Alex, then said, “That is exactly what someone with Lake Madness would say.”
I don’t know that I have ever seen Quinn speechless before, but that did it.
We did let Quinn know that Lake Madness was made up, but that didn’t stop us from repeatedly bringing it up for the rest of our vacation. We are not nice people.
In fact, if you know Quinn in real life and you’re hanging out with him and he does something weird, it would be awesome if you were to say, “Quinn. Have you been swimming in a lake lately? Because what you just did is exactly what my cousin did when he had Lake Madness.”
His head would quite likely explode right off of his head.
You should know though, that if you do that, you will also be a Not Nice Person and will probably also (1) go to hell and (2) contribute to Quinn’s nervous breakdown. On second thought, just think about saying that to him, but don’t actually do it.
My other kids got Lake Madness on our last trip out in the rowboat when they followed Quinn’s lead and all jumped in the lake.
They were all under our oars and hanging on the edge of the rowboat and generally causing a ruckus. It was de-fucking-lightful. I like my kids a lot.
Algernon came close to getting Lake Madness too, but I saved him before he fell in.
It is remarkable how quickly a small stuffed mouse will sink a lily pad. This shot was harder to get than it looks.
Fortunately, we had access to an Algernon dryer right next to where Alex and I were sleeping.
I badly want a fireplace next to my bed now. That was the greatest thing ever.
Of course, it was not all rowboats and nature walks. There were also go karts (Quinn was tall enough to drive his own kart here; he is a terrible driver) and mini golf and fishing (have you ever seen live bait dispensed from a vending machine? I have) and all kinds of quirky restaurants, including Paul Bunyan’s, where you don’t even get to order food—they just bring you plates and piles of food for the table and you choose what you want.
They also had these fabulous ox horns that Jack used to gore Alex.
One of my very favorite things that we did was take the munchkins horseback riding. They’ve been on ponies that go in those sad little circles before, but never on actual horses. I remember riding semi-regularly when I was kid and I LOVED it, so it was cool to see my kiddos do it for the first time.
Quinn was really nervous at first and almost refused to get on his horse. The guides were really nice though and told him they’d just walk his horse in a couple little circles and he could get off if it was too scary. After about three minutes, he was sold.
This is Quinn on A3, which is a weird name for a horse, but reportedly he was “the best horse” they had.
Jack got to ride the tallest horse in the world. We always joke that Jack is the honey badger (“He’s pretty badass. Jack don’t care. Jack don’t give a shit. He just takes what he wants.”) Well, Jack got his comemuffins* by getting the honey badger horse. His horse kept stopping to munch on trail-side greenery, requiring Jack to guide him back onto the path. He did a pretty good job of it, but that horse worked him. I laughed and laughed and laughed. Comemuffins.*
Jack on his horse, Kessler. You can’t tell here, but that horse was taller than a fucking tree. HUGE.
Sam’s and his horse rode directly in front of me. Sam’s horse audibly farted for the entire 45-minute ride. It was astounding that one animal could have that much gas inside him.
Sam on his black and white horse, Oreo. It is quite possible that this horse is the direct reason we have a black and white cat named Oreo.
Quinn rode in the front, right behind the guide and he talked to her for 45 minutes straight. It was hilarious. I meandered along in the back, bothered only by the flatulence of the horse in front of me.
At one point, a deer spooked both Sam and Jack’s horses, causing them to take off running. Both of them managed to pull back on the reins and not get violently thrown to the ground. I was tremendously proud. They were rock stars. All three kiddos did a great job.
Even Algernon did all right.
He was too small to ride a real horse though so he was stuck with a pony.
I have to say, I think that this section of our vacation might have been my favorite. It was so chill. I got a ton of running in as well, on roads that ran alongside scenes like this:
The only negative about running past this was worrying that a bear or mountain lion would come lumbering out of it.
All of our vacation was fun, but there is nothing like Lake Van Vliet for some forced relaxation. Team Stimey is really lucky to have the opportunity to vacation here. And I am very lucky to have Team Stimey.
I’m so lucky to have these three munchkins in my life.
* This is how we say “comeuppance” in my family. And, no, it’s not because one of our kids adorably mispronounced the word. Alex mispronounced it until he was midway through law school and I finally corrected him. I decided that it would be against our best interests for him to bust out with, “Then the defendant got his comemuffins…” in front of a judge.