Ninety-three Summers

Ninety-three summers.  That there's commitment, my friends.

Spending a portion of each summertime in Grand Haven, a picturesque town on the western coast of Michigan that has had either a Tanis or a Pett connection for at least 100 years is as much a part of Jason's DNA as his HEIGHT.  So, allegiance and devotion to a Grand Haven summertime was an unspoken, shadow vow taken with great solemnity during my wedding service, slipped in between in sickness and in health and until death due us part.  It was never discussed and never debated.  It was fact.  We go to Grand Haven each summer.  Like Notre Dame's code, (for the uninitiated, it's God, Country, Notre Dame), our code reads

God, Family, Grand Haven

Or God, Family, Pronto Pups, depending on which Pett you ask. 

But I digress.

The traditions that we have in this hamlet are as predictable as the seasons.  We walk to the pier.  We fish.  We spend afternoons on the beach.  We read.  We rest.  We play board games and card games.  We get Fricano's Pizza at least once.  I get to read read read read read read READ.  Kyle comes to hang out with the boys and Jason and I have a date night (either at the Grand or the Kirby Grill).  We watch every sunset.  We frequent Morning Star, the Bookman, (the best independent bookstore on the face of the EARTH), Butch's and Pronto Pups.  We must, must, MUST visit Temptations. 

We arrive at our favorite of all favorite houses, The Sand Castle.  We converted to "the North Shore"  six years ago from Indian Village, and from our beloved Stickney Ridge before that, and will never go back.  We love it so. 

Settling In

We arrive in the house and couldn't be happier.  We all just snuggle in and relax together.  We are ALL in our happy place.

Thanks to Spencer Pett, our built-in babysitter, we got to do the BIG MEIJER SHOP ALONE. 


The post-shopping reward. 

When the sun sets, we head to the end of our driveway to watch our VERY OWN personal fireworks display. 

Well.  It's not REALLY just for us.  But it feels like it is.

We share these fireworks with the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival.  *wink*

We share these fireworks with the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival.  *wink*

The Greatest Lake

I have tender feelings for Lake Michigan.  She and I share a similar temperament.  One day, we are calm as can be.  Flat, placid, peaceful, and clear.  A joy to behold.  But other days, our waves rock and rumble and we can TAKE DOWN SHIPS WITH THE MIGHTY UNPREDICTABILITY OF OUR EMOTIONS.

The RUMBLER was kicking and screaming on day two.

Jason surprised me with a paddleboard from the Wet Mitten!  She will have to be launched on a calmer day.


Grand Haven's Haute Cuisine

Grand Haven does not only have personal fireworks displays, the Coast Guard Festival, the famous Musical Fountain, and a picturesque lighthouse at the end of the channel.  IT HAS FOOD.  GOOD FOOD.  People would argue that Grand Haven is not known for it's food.  I respectfully disagree.

It's got good grub and I like it like that.

Welcome to the Morning Star Cafe, which serves the best breakfasts in all the land. (The cinnamon rolls are enough to make a grown woman weep).

Introducing PRONTO PUPS.

No.  No.  NO.  NO!  No, they are not a CORN DOG.  Sacrilege, darling.  They are PRONTO PUPS, a category of food all unto itself.  Pronto pups are a juicy, meaty hot dog coated in a batter that is sweet, yet savory at the same time.  They are a delight.  They are an experience.  They are a LIFESTYLE.  They are also, happily, $1.75 a piece.  (At the risk of dating myself, I remember when they were a dollar, you whippersnapper, you!)

The best GH gastro-extravaganza of all time was this:  appetizers at Pronto Pups, a beef and bean burrito with #2 sauce from Butch's Beach Burritos for the FIRST entree, Temptations ice cream for dessert, and a carry-out Fricano's Pizza to eat while watching the sunset back at the cottage.  Otherwise known as the post-dessert entree.  Friends, that is the PERFECT NIGHT. 

And for the quick, fun ice cream over the bridge in Spring Lake?  Well, that would be Miss Lisa's.

Miss Lisa's playground is a delight for all.

Miss Lisa's playground is a delight for all.

Ladies and gentleman, for the piece de resistance, I give you RUSS'.

On Tuesday evenings we would take Gram Pett to Russ'  She would always add a "salad" to her meal. . . .  a half of a canned peach nestled in a mound of cottage cheese.  Jason, a purist, gets the ham steak.  ME?  TURKEY GRAVY ALL THE WAY, BABY.

Literary and Artistic Pursuits

Grand Haven is a place for reading, and the Bookman keeps us well stocked.  (It's proximity to Morning Star Cafe doesn't hurt, either).  While we wait for our table, we browse.   We choose.  We get excited about what we will learn. 

Our loot after the first trip.

Our loot after the first trip.

Be still, my heart!  A Little Free Library!

The Bookman has some magical elixir that makes even the most reluctant reader into a bookworm.  

Behold, Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:


This Girl

I met this girl in a stuffy, dimly lit, empty summer classroom at Holmes Elementary School.  She was teaching fourth grade in the classroom next door to me, had just had her first beautiful brown-eyed baby boy, and was impossibly worldly, sophisticated, and smart.  And hilariously silly and uproariously funny and wildly talented and creative and musical and artistic.  

I've had the great good fortune to call her friend for almost twenty years.

Spending time with Susan and her talented husband Chris and her super interesting boys is a highlight of Grand Haven for us every year.  I know you will leave the Mitten someday.  JUST PLEASE. . . . NOT YET!

The Requisite ER Trip

It happens every year.  EVERY.  YEAR.  Either urgent care or the ER.  Ear infections, kidney infections, broken ribs, bronchitis, swimmers' ear, suspected broken foot. . . . .the list is endless.  We make sure that the medical bills are all paid up before we even head to Michigan, because we know that we will be seeing the fine folks at North Ottawa Community Hospital for SOMETHING, and we want our credit to be GOOD.

I did my best to keep him occupied.

This year it was broken ribs.  Rest and relax, big boy.

Fish Stories

Grand Haven is a place where a boy can pack a sandwich and some cheese sticks in his pocket, walk alone to the pier at 5 o'clock in the morning with his rod and tackle, choose a spot and begin to fish.  Grand Haven is also a place where the community of fishermen on the pier take a boy, who is hungry to learn, under their tutelage and teach him ALL THE FISHING THINGS.  Bait, lures, tying things properly, patience, technique, patience, types of fish, patience, exotic invaders, patience, the impact of water temperature, and did I mention PATIENCE?

We brought him breakfast.  No bites.

A mid-morning snack.  No bites.

Lunch.  Nada.

An afternoon pop.  (That's soda for the rest of you).  Nothing.

A late afternoon snack.  Still nothing.

By now, we had all made friends with the fishermen.  They were calling all of us by name. The pier had turned into Cheers, and we were NORM.


His dogged determination was admirable.

It was getting close to dinnertime and I was getting ready to pull the plug on this grand adventure. 

But just then, who saunters home, but this guy:

. . .  with a steelhead, caught with the assistance of Mr. Kelley, Owen's favorite new mentor, a grin as wide as the lake, and some serious fisherman STREET CRED. 


I could go on and tell you about how Kyle and the boys dared each other to crack raw eggs over their heads, about how we got to babysit the sweetest little second cousin, how we tried and FAILED to potty training Landon, how we had a Monopoly marathon for the AGES, how the freighters come through the channel and the boys race to the pier to wave to the sailors, how our Chicago cousins came to visit, and how our family loves nothing better than sunsets over water and Lake Michigan sand between our toes. 

But you know all that already.

God, Family, GRAND HAVEN.

Here's to ninety-three more summers.

Our Holland Home

EDITOR'S NOTE:  It is April 11, 2016, at 10:27 am, and I am happily ensconced at my favorite table, in my favorite bookstore, with the gift of two kid-free hours to write THIS POST.  This piece has been tough to write, in the best possible way, since my heart is so filled with love and gratitude for the people in it, and I am certain that my words will not do them justice.  Moreover, by the time I reached these dear folks after our journey, I relaxed completely.  I was in MY Michigan.  I was HOME.   Home means REST, and REST means no writing, apparently for EIGHT WHOLE MONTHS.  (Timeliness is not by strongest asset).  My deepest apologies to our Holland family for the late post.  The lateness of the post does not reflect the posture of our hearts.  We love you so. 



It is the summer of 1996, and two very young marrieds arrive in a U-Haul filled with hand-me-down furniture to their first home, a crisp, white Cape Cod with black shutters.  They were confident that they were fully prepared to tackle all of the FIRSTS:  jobs, home ownership, dog, marriage, and all the ADULT THINGS. 

These crazy kids left their families and friends in the East, not unlike the pioneers of yesteryear (wink), to strike out on their own and forge a life together.  But with what proved to be wisdom that belied their years, they chose to reside in Holland, Michigan, the land of tulips, wooden shoes, freezing winters, beautiful beaches, and Uncle Jeff and Aunt Joyce. 

The guy in the middle?  Our realtor, whose catchphrase was "Oh, my achin' BACK!"  Also, where are Jeff's shoes??

The guy in the middle?  Our realtor, whose catchphrase was "Oh, my achin' BACK!"  Also, where are Jeff's shoes??

Two "adults" signing their first contract on their first house.  What in the WORLD??

Two "adults" signing their first contract on their first house.  What in the WORLD??

Jason and I lived in Holland for three very formative years.  These were the years of frozen ravioli, frozen pizza, and frozen corn.  We were broke, young, lonely, and learning.  Everything felt big and difficult and NEW.  But, we had each other, and we had the occasional dinner (Hallelujah!  Something hot and fresh and actually cooked!) or post-church China Garden with Uncle Jeff, Aunt Joyce, and their three great kids.  We skied and tubed with them on Lake Macatawa.  (Some of *we* may or may not have chipped her tooth whilst tubing.  Nothing like dealing with a snaggletoothed niece-in-law).  We just loved our time being around the REAL GROWNUPS, because surely, WE WERE NOT.  We loved their kids and learned so much by watching how they were parented.  (We still live by the Jeff Pett family "one sport a season" rule).  Their presence in our lives was renewing and encouraging.  They SHOWED UP.  Sometimes as themselves.  Sometimes as leaf removal fairies.  Our neighbors, our sorely neglected yard, and our pitiful little selves, exhausted from all of the ADULTING, were very grateful. They loved us well.  Still do. 

After our time in Holland came to an end and we returned East, we made it a point to come and visit west Michigan each summer.  Jason's roots ran deep there, we had made dear friends, and we loved our yearly check in with the Jeff Pett family.  Not to mention, Jason had the NEED TO SKI.

Then, our boys started to arrive, and the doors to Jeff and Joyce's house remained open.  They embraced our growing family with laughter, love, and lots of adventure, despite the fact that our arrival always feels, at least to me, like the circus coming to town.  Our time with them each summer is one of the highlights of every year, and this year was no exception. 

We arrive!

We arrive!

Hugs first.  Then immediate arm wrestling.

He's nearly got him!

Carter cannot even BELIEVE it. 

Carter cannot even BELIEVE it. 


Get in my belly.

Every Tuesday, after my teaching day, Gram Pett and I would share tea and windmill cookies.

Every Tuesday, after my teaching day, Gram Pett and I would share tea and windmill cookies.

Meet Glow Worm. 

Glow Worm was a candy-smuggling receptacle back from when Jeff and Joyce's (ingenious) son Kyle went to sleep away camp.  Now, it waits for young visitors at Jeff and Joyce's house.  Sans candy, much to their chagrin.  This year, it was Carter's turn to sleep with Glow Worm.

Carter and Landon gravitate toward the upstairs rec room. . . as do Owen and Joyce. 

Then, it's time to take to the water.

Spencer.  Looks just like his papa.  BUT WITHOUT ALL THE UNSIGHTLY FACIAL HAIR.

Spencer.  Looks just like his papa.  BUT WITHOUT ALL THE UNSIGHTLY FACIAL HAIR.

Owen, getting some air.  ALSO just like his papa. 

Owen, getting some air.  ALSO just like his papa. 

These littles could do this for DAYS.  Luckily for us, we have some DAYS to spend boating and playing and laughing together. And we will.  But what makes this such a renewing, restorative time for our family isn't the water, or the boating, or the beautiful Michigan beaches. 


We enjoy alfresco dinners, storytelling, laughing, boat rides, hiking dunes, lazy beach afternoons, water play, and just being easy together.  And a BONUS AUNT AND UNCLE swept into town FROM PRAGUE while we were there, and all of Jeff and Joyce's kids and grandkids were so sweet to come and see us while we visited.  It was a complete joy to connect with them, these interesting, smart, loving, and HILARIOUS (I'm looking at YOU, Kyle!) people. 

Look!  It's me!  With the OJP! (for the uninitiated, that's the ORIGINAL JENNIFER PETT).

Look!  It's me!  With the OJP! (for the uninitiated, that's the ORIGINAL JENNIFER PETT).

And then.  The moment we'd all been waiting for. . .

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow! 


Then it was time to move on to our final Michigan stop, the amazingly restorative Grand Haven.  More arm wrestling ensued while we packed the car. . .

...and we dined together one last time at the best restaurant on the face of the planet. . .


If you don't know how wonderful, delightful, and delicious Pizza Ranch is, and how heartbroken I am that there is not one in Maryland, well, I can't help you understand. 

With full bellies and very happy hearts, we said our goodbyes and headed north to Grand Haven. 

Holland. . . we can't wait until next summer. 

Photo credit:

Photo credit: