Family reunion summer vacation trip to Waupaca, Chain o’ lakes

This summer we had a family reunion (Tom’s side) at his old stomping grounds, the Chain o’ Lakes in Waupaca, WI.

He, his brother, his sisters, and his mom were beside themselves, absolutely giddy, relishing the past, telling old stories, reliving old memories, and putting all us young folk through the motions of life on the lake as they knew it from the 70’s.

Not only did Tom’s family spend their summers on the lake while growing up, but when Tom’s sister Colleen had kids and they got to elementary school age all the families would gather again to spend a week up there. As they got older, the tradition came to an end, and the lake trips stopped altogether. But Tom never stopped thinking about it, or talking about it, so this summer before we even left San Diego, he had the girls excited, talking about the putt putt golf they would play at Tom Thumb’s, and the pizza they would eat at the Wheel House, and the horseflies they would run from, screaming for their lives as they dive head first into the lake to escape their vicious attack. (Ok, Tom got a little carried away with his stories of way back when, and I needed to reel in the drama, but the damn horsefly story stuck and I spent all week telling a screaming Payton to stop running for the lake…it’s not a horsefly!)

So here we are, full circle from where Tom started.

It was an incredible trip….everything you would expect and more.

Starting with these frogs. My girls are not girly girls I came to find out. No way.

Frog? Yes I’ll hold him. Freshly caught fish squirming in my hands? Yes I’m ok with that.  Turtles? Yes please, I’ll pet him. (luckily, the turtle refused petting, as it turned out NOT to be one of the nice gentle turtles we saw near our dock, but a snapping Killer turtle who could TAKE YOUR HAND OFF!)


family vacation catching frogs

Speaking of taking your hands off something…look at the picture below for an example of a poor frog transfer between frog loving girls.

I wish I could insert a little arrow to make sure you can see the frog falling (to his death?), but I think you’ll spot him.

I don’t even like frogs. (Hate them? yes, maybe.)  And even I feel sad looking at this frog fail.

family vacation


But here we are, at the meat of this vacation.

Learning to water ski.

I can’t tell you how many renditions of the story: “I learned to water ski on this same lake” we heard this week. At least 7, one from Tom and each of his siblings, plus his mom, retelling all the stories, plus stories about Colleen’s kids….so I took copious mental notes about how MY kids learned to water ski on Long lake too. I’ll be sure to join in with our OWN stories the next time some poor soul gets bored to tears listening to our “how I learned to ski” stories. (watch out Gramps and Nana Kathy…that could be you! )

water skiing in WaupacaWe praised Payton for her form. She was a natural. Harper laughs looking at pictures of Payton…says “she looks like she’s sitting in a chair.”  Well yeah!! That’s how you’re supposed to look!


Waupaca 2016 37


family photography

vs looking like you’re about to  face plant the water. Which do you prefer Harper?   (she won’t admit her little sister is better than her, but she knows it!) To her credit, she stays up, even in this back breaking position, but I’m sure after a few rounds of the lake Payton will need much less Ben Gay then Harper will.


This group of guys on the pontoon next to us were not people we knew, but they sure made an excellent cheering section! Almost brought me to tears to hear strangers cheering on our girls! But Tom and the girls will tell you….almost EVERYTHING brings me to tears! So not sure if that is useful in making my point or not.

kim kelley photography family vacationWhen the kids weren’t water skiing, they were playing on this Maui Mat we rented for the week. With all the other water toys we had, we thought we’d only rent the mat for a few days. The lady in the boat house told us the kids will LOVE it and we’ll want it for the whole week.

She was right. We had it for the week.

Most of the time they played nicely, gently. But other times it became battle of the cousins to see who was Queen/King of the maui mat.

Payton, the smallest, youngest cousin, held her own.

kim kelley photography family vacation

Waupaca 2016 7


kim kelley photography family vacation

And was not too shy about boasting.

I guess if I were an 8 year old girl who threw her 13 year old male cousin off the Maui Mat I’d be pretty boastful too. (However Harper, reading over my shoulder, tells me he let her win and went easy on her…thanks to Aunt Cathy who told him to.  Whatever, the most important fact is that Payton doesn’t know this, obviously.)

kim kelley photography family vacationThe dinner bell.

(and breakfast, and lunch, and 33 more times throughout the day).

They loved the bell. The neighbors? Definitely did not.


kim kelley photography family vacationTom and Vicki Esser, (good friends from Milwaukee and Harper’s godfather) came up for the weekend. Vicki gained instant popularity by (willingly!!! who does hair willingly???? certainly not me!) pulling out all the fashion stops and doing their hair in popular cheer team styles. Vicki and Tom’s daughter is on the dance squad in high school, so Vicki is a hair expert. My girls? In heaven!!!


Waupaca 2016 3Waupaca 2016 2The boat.

Where everything happens.

We eat on it.

We drink on it.

We get it stuck on it in shallow water in the middle of the night.

We hide from the kids on it when it’s tied up at the dock and they’d never look for me there (what? me? No, I’m just saying you COULD….not really saying I did.)

Life on a lake….it’s all about the boat….


Waupaca 2016 2Waupaca 2016 7Waupaca 2016 15

kim kelley photography family vacationcousins.

What this caption should read is:

We interrupt this program of violent swinging, rocking, yelling and hanging on for dear life as your cousins try to heave you off the hammock to bring you this sweet angelic photo of 4 cousins enjoying a peaceful afternoon out in the yard.

Ok, got my photo, now, back to the original vicious, maniacal movements you call appropriate hammock handling. (Look at the outermost hands of those 2 on the ends….I can see the hammock starting to flip upside down right now!)

Waupaca 2016 38Waupaca 2016 19Waupaca 2016 28Waupaca 2016 27

And how do nights on the lake end?
With s’mores and guitar music of course.

Oh, and 1 million mosquito bites…..don’t go out in short sleeves after dark round here!

I guess we all see why the Kelley family loved their summers on the lake….and I guess this group of Kelley’s now have their own Waupaca stories to brag about.

Til next time, Chain O’ Lakes…..

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

  • Leann RobertsLooks like an awesomely memorable trip!ReplyCancel

  • TomAs a witness to all the fun, I can confirm that all events really happened and none (or not many) have been embellished. Great fun with great people at a great location! Amazing pictures, Kim!ReplyCancel

telephone (858) 357-5330
located in san diego, california