1. The "OMG this is going to be SO. MUCH. FUN" stage.
This is when you're still blindly optimistic that everything is going to go amazingly and you'll get a really relaxing and fun weekend.
2. The "do we really need to bring all this stuff??" stage.
At this stage, it looks like Babies R Us threw up all over your living room and you're stuffing toys and sippy cups into every nook and cranny of your car.
3. The "EVERYONE GET THEIR ASSES IN THE CAR" stage.
Yup, this is the stage where you start yelling at everyone to just, pleeeeeeeease, get in the car. Please.
4. The "woohoo we're hitting the road" stage.
Might be accompanied by a fresh Double Double with a side of unhealthy optimism.
5. The "the baby is crying and the preschooler has been kicking the back of your seat for the last hour" stage.
Okay, this is where you're desperately wishing you had invested in tablets. And that the baby was old enough to watch a movie on one.
6. The "hallelujah, we're here" stage.
When you turn onto your cottage road and the heavenly chorus starts singing as you pull into the driveway.
7. The "everyone's immediately hungry" stage.
Because, you know, you've been in the car for the past 3 hours. Oh, and that means you need to unpack the food from the trunk.
8. The "let the fun begin" stage.
Everyone's fed, happy, and there's still an hour till the baby's bedtime. This calls for a fire. And s'mores.
9. The "letting the preschooler eat as many s'mores as he wants" stage.
Because it's vacation. And you've already eaten 5 so you can't really deny your child the same thing.
Even the baby gets a marshmallow.
10. The "why in hell did I allow that??" stage.
This is the stage where the preschooler has eaten the entire bag of marshmallows and is still dancing around the lawn after bedtime and you're seriously questioning whether you should actually be allowed to make any parenting decisions at all. Ever.
11. The "the kids are finally in bed" stage.
This is where you grab a bottle of wine and sneak down to the dock for some much-needed alone time. Oh, wait. The monitor doesn't work down here.
12. The "the sun is up so the kids are up" stage.
Because their bedroom at the cottage doesn't have black out curtains. Coffee, anyone?
13. The "water play should be fun so why the crap won't my kid stop crying?" stage.
It's 30 degrees. You want to be in the lake. Your preschooler won't put on his lifejacket and is stomping around the beach and throwing sand at the baby. Oh, and the baby screams bloody murder when you try to put her in the $20 floater you bought especially because it looked like "so much fun."
14. The "remember when we use to just lie on this dock and tan" stage.
Not anymore, folks. Not anymore.
15. The "we need to feed everyone again!?" stage.
Because the lake makes kids extra hungry. So you're strapping the baby into the highchair for the fifth time that day while looking longingly out the window at the sun drenched beach.
16. The "is it bad to go to bed at the same time as the kids?" stage.
This is the stage where you want to stay up and make the most of your last night at the cottage but your eyelids keep drooping closed no matter what you do.
17. The "now we have to pack up everything we just unpacked" stage.
Because you brought EVERYTHING IMAGINABLE from home and just unpacked it all yesterday and now you need to pack everything again and OH MY GOD.
18. The "please don't make me get back in the car with a baby and preschooler for 3 hours" stage.
Because you know what this ride will be like. You JUST DID IT two days ago and are still recovering.
19. The "OMG I JUST WANT TO BE HOME" stage.
This stage normally happens somewhere around the middle of the drive home when all you want is to put the kids to bed in THEIR OWN rooms, with blackout curtains and sound machines, stretch back on your couch, and turn on Netflix.
20. The "I miss the cottage and can't wait to go back" stage.
This happens as an after-effect of unpacking, putting the kids to bed, and relaxing with a glass of wine. Your memory becomes just foggy enough to recast the weekend in a romanticized light. You will remember the lovely family times you had at the cottage and vow to make the trip again next weekend.
21. The "sigh — would do it all over again" stage.
Repeat this stage for the duration of the summer.