Chitchat Coffee Time Post

I sat down this morning to type up my Homeschooling Snow post, and realized that was not what I wanted to talk about this morning. Instead I just feel like chatting over my coffee. Also not sure why there is a measuring spoon in my room…

On Monday, Wyatt returned to therapy. This was a big deal for all of us. I was completely nervous and filled with all the anxiety. Would they tell us Wyatt had lost a lot of skills over the last year? How would he be away from me? How would I be away from him? We have been joined at the hip practically for the past year, so there was sure to be some separation anxiety. I drove there, buoyed by the tough love from my friends, feeling like I just wanted to turn the car around and head home to our safe house. But, we couldn’t do that. This was important. We know to stay safe you wear a mask and keep your distance and wash your hands. These are things we can do. And then when we got there, all worry melted away. This place is familiar. These people are like family. They have known Wyatt since he was a year old and love him and care about him. They would do their best by him as they have for five years.

And surprise, they wanted me to go in! I had been told that only Wyatt would be allowed in but things have lifted in Michigan a bit and I was able to join them. I probably won’t always, since Wyatt does need to get used to being away from me again, but this time, I was glad. I could visit with his therapist, I could see what precautions they are taking first hand. And I got to see the joy Wyatt had in returning and being reunited with Stacy, whom he has known for five years. They have always been a great team. And Wyatt is so motivated right now- I am excited to see what happens and how he grows from this return. More good Wyatt news – he finally finally made the growth chart after six years! It’s been a battle, but this kid is now in the 13th percentile. His doctor did a little happy dance and so did I!

The slow evolution from sad anole to happy Dash. I wish I could have taken home all three little anoles but I couldn’t. So sad and grey in that first photo! In the second he is beginning to feel safer and happier. Then one morning I was delighted to see that Dash was green! The sign of a happy little anole.

And in case you need some happy Harry photos…

This week my dad got his second vaccine, my mom got her first, and my aunt got her second as well. I think my uncle is waiting on his second one still. My mom goes for her second shot on Wyatt’s birthday!

My cute little mommy after her shot. My brother took her – he was messing with her and told her that they got a stockboy from the back to administer the shots. Lol.

Wyatt and I had a fun week together too. We did lots of snow activities, read lots of books, painted, made Valentines, and baked some pretty terrible cookies. I mistakenly used quick oats in our oatmeal cookies instead of rolled – and it does make a difference, just saying. Billy couldn’t even identify what type of cookie we had tried to make. LOL. We haven’t been outside too much lately. The weather has been too cold for us to feel comfortable taking Wyatt out – as he is not independently mobile right now he doesn’t generate heat from expending energy so we worry about him getting too cold. We are going to try to go to the zoo tomorrow, and see a quick list of specific animals – crossing my fingers we can do it, we need some fresh air time.

How was your week?

Full Wolf Moon Howl

Two years ago I signed us up for the Kids Moon Club, an online “year-long journey and community tied not to keeping up, but looking up.” I wanted Wyatt to be a part of something, to have some sense of belonging to a group, even an online community. And this was such a good choice. The community of people are amazing and gracious and joyful, artistic and sharing and lovers of nature as we are. And the first year that we participated Wyatt made some tremendous gains, saying some of his very first words – snow and moon. February is the month of the full snow moon, it will always be a little special to me for that reason, but January is the full wolf moon, which is always just fun honestly.

We spent our homeschool day learning about Arctic wolves. They are beautiful majestic creatures for sure. Then we made Wolf Paw cookies, while singing along to the Snow album from the Okee Dokee Brothers, with special emphasis on the song Howl, of course. For dinner we had a very meat centric meal, to be wolflike, with pot roast and meatballs on the menu. (Wyatt loves meatballs) And of course, enjoyed our cookies afterwards.

There was to be a collective howl at 7 pm for the full wolf moon, and I invited my family to howl along from their homes, which sounds pretty odd but it was fun. It was kind of neat to know that we were all doing the same thing together, at the same time. I kind of get why wolves do it. (Although you can see Marlow wasn’t too big of a fan) But the fun wasn’t over yet. We cuddled up on the couch all tumbledy-cozy under blankets, Wyatt still wearing his little hat I made, and read Wyatt’s Gray Wolf letter that was his letter for the month from the Writings from the Wild subscription he has. It was super cute honestly, and really interesting. We talked about how the wolves use their tails to block the cold from their noses, and compared it to how our fluffy cat Miso does the same thing, curls all up tight with her tail in front of her face.

After we read our letter, it was time to choose which wolf we were going to symbolically adopt from the Wolf Conservation Center in New York! A bucket list item for me is to camp there, with the wolves. You don’t actually get to camp with them, but close to them which would be so fun! After COVID I am moving that up the list. Every year we choose a wolf to “adopt” – the first year we picked Zephyr, the second year Deven, and then this year Wyatt picked Lighthawk, a Mexican Gray Wolf.

Over the course of the month, I explored the world of wolves myself. I listened to the Lupinology podcast on Ologies with Alie Ward, which was so fascinating I listened to it twice. Then I watched the mini-documentary Call of the Coastal Wolves, about the sea wolves of Vancouver Island, which was beautifully done. I plan on reading more about these interesting creatures. Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer, joined them on this journey. I follow Nicklen on Instagram and his photos are otherworldly and gorgeous.

We have a few more activities left to complete before the new snow moon moves in, the forest story and our wolf coloring page, but overall this has been a fun month. We are looking forward to the snow moon of February!

Winter Hikes

We are winter hikers; we wait all year to get back out there in the cold and snow. There is just something so invigorating about being in a winter wood, the chill temps, the quiet. On New Years Day, I walked the woods alone; Wyatt had fallen asleep in the car on the way to the trail, and Billy offered to stay back so that I could wander. The only sounds I heard were those of the birds, tweeting and chirping, birds of all kinds. Robins and cardinals and blue jays, various woodpeckers – a chipmunk ran in front of me, scampering into the undergrowth. I had my eyes scanning the trees, looking for the long – eared owl that has been spotted there, but didn’t see it unfortunately. When I headed back to the car, Billy told me that he had been watching all the birds as well, from his warm cozy seat. They were simply everywhere.

We took two more hikes that week, one at our favorite trail system, just to get outside and stretch our legs, get some fresh air. The woods were quiet that day, we didn’t see a single soul, nor see any signs of life at all. The birds and the animals must have been huddled up against the cold, wondering just what we were thinking, hiking around out there.

We also trekked out to Belle Isle one morning, and took a walk around the half frozen pond. It was like being in the Arctic, but not as cold and minus the polar bears. Although I did spy some tracks in the snow on the ice; can anyone identify them? I am thinking maybe fox, but identifying tracks is something I haven’t mastered.

It was a beautiful walk, almost magical near the marshy spots and the cattails.

And what better way to end a cold walk in the snow and ice than with hot chocolate and car snacks?

Currently…January

It is not just a new month, it is a new year! Here we go, 2021! It is time for Anne In Residence’s monthly Currently post where we answer one word prompts about different things we are doing and feeling. I always love the insight I gain from these, taking inventory of my own life.

First up – Beginning: Ugh so much! I am one one of those people who like a firecracker starts the new year off with a bang, off and running. I start out strong every year, and last year I was doing great but then we all know what happened. Lol. We are starting the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge, and also the Kids Moon Club again. I am also starting to plan our garden for the spring, and I am starting my “houseplant journey” as well, adding plants around my house, and I am loving it. I even bought a moisture meter, so I am feeling pretty committed. We also have a list of house projects we want to accomplish, wish us luck!

Feeling: Recommitted to our goals and values as a family. Hopeful. Slightly introspective. Inspired.

Organizing: Books, so many books. I just bought a new bookcase with a bench for Wyatt’s room, and happily spent time going through his books and organizing them all. I am also trying to organize our homeschooling supplies a little better.

Resolving: To be more patient. I am not the most patient person in the world, and I am working on that this year. I have infinite patience with children and animals, but in other areas of my life, not so much. And in fact, we always play a little game on New Years Day where we draw an animal and adjective from a hat and that is our word and animal for the year – this year I got patient bobcat. Not sure what that all means, but I can definitely work on patience. Wyatt and Billy got similar adjectives and the same animal – and they already embody them. Fearless Bear (Billy) and Courageous Bear (Wyatt). I am also resolving to try more new recipes this year. Last night I made foccacia bread and a Smoky bacon potato corn chowder, and they were amazing so I am off to a good start!

Wondering: Probably the same as everyone. Aside from the big wonder, I was also wondering the other day if we were ever going to have a non-cloudy night for skywatching events this year. Lol. Maybe this is our year!

Handmade Holiday Gift Ideas for Children

I think most of us are facing a different Christmas this year – one that looks a little less like our normal traditions. And while we may be celebrating differently, some of us may be choosing to shop differently as well. Maybe going into less stores and opting for more online shopping, like me – in which case I am thinking the sooner I get started the better, as shipping may be a little slower than normal. As I consider my list this year, I want to try to patronize small businesses and artists more than usual as well, since this year has been tough on makers, so I will be purchasing a mix of gifts for the littles in my life this Christmas, and trying to be mindful. Here are a few things that have caught my eye this year! (Just make sure to check shipping dates if something happens to grab you!) This list is geared for younger kids, and I am sure a lot of it will find it’s way under our tree or as a gift to one of my nieces.

Wooden Play Dough Stamps: These are so adorable! I love how sturdy they seem, and easier on little hands to push! Wyatt and all of his cousins are play dough fanatics and I can see them all having a good time with these. I linked to the woodland set, but there are a few others like dinosaurs and unicorns, sea creatures and mushrooms.

DIY Personalized Puzzle Kit: There is so much about this that I love. All of my nieces have non-traditional names and can never find anything personalized, and at least two of them love art and putting puzzles together. If ever there was a more perfect gift!

Preschool Sewing Kit: I actually bought this for Wyatt to practice with over the summer and he really liked doing it! I thought it was creative as well as teaching hand-eye and fine motor skills.

Personalized Baking Set: This one ships from the UK, so if you are not in the UK, make sure it can be sent to you and what shipping costs and time will be before ordering! I just can’t with it’s cuteness though.

Wooden Puzzle for Kids: So, I have puzzles on here twice… but they were so different I thought it would be ok. These are so cute and I am a fan of wooden puzzles for kids.

Wooden Toy Kitchen: Ok, so this is brilliant. One of the best things we ever bought Wyatt was his toy kitchen – but it is so big and takes up so much space in our house! He still loves it and plays with it everyday though so although it has its own area, it stays up. However, had I seen this I may have been considered this as an option! It is perfect for small spaces or even for people who may not want to give up house space for a toy kitchen.

Handmade Knit Fox: I am totally in love with this fox. We bought Wyatt a knit badger for Christmas his first year, and he still loves it and sleeps with it every night. His name is Henry and I am always afraid something will befall Henry and then where will we be. I am tempted to pick this fox up just in case.. (update: I had a different fox here originally, but it sold out so I added another)

Stocking Stuffers:

Felt Mask for Pretend Play: The kids in my life love pretend play, and wearing masks and headbands and capes and clothes – and I thought this unicorn was super cute.

Felt Beard: This is definitely making its way into Wyatt’s stocking this year. Billy has a beard and Wyatt always pretends he has one like his dad’s – now he can have a play one!

Personalized Patches: I just think patches are neat. I like to get them and put them on Wyatt’s backpacks that we use for exploring.

Wooden Owl Pendant: I can see just about every kid I know wearing one of these. And they have different versions available as well!

Letter Subscriptions:

Writings from the Wild: I love these monthly letters from the “wild” and so does Wyatt. I signed him up for this two months ago, and they are informative and beautiful – plus Wyatt loves getting mail so that makes it even better. It is inexpensive as well, only a few dollars a month, and right now they are having a sale, 15% off if you enter Christmas15 (off 6 or 12).

Letters from Afar: These are neat, and if Wyatt was older I would definitely get it for him. They look gorgeous!

Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

One of our most beloved family traditions every year is our trip to the pumpkin patch and orchard. We have been doing it since I was a little girl, when we would go with my cousin and follow it up with chili for dinner and cake to celebrate my uncle’s birthday. This year, it almost didn’t happen, for obvious reasons. But the kids have been studying pumpkins all week and we needed to find a way we felt comfortable going, if possible.

So we did! Billy, Devin, and Chrissy took a day off of work for our “field trip” this year, we got up early so we could arrive right when it opened, and we chose to go one of our favorite orchards, one that is a favorite because it is just about the pumpkins there. No rigmarole or fair like atmosphere – just an orchard, pumpkins, and for adults, a hard cider tasting room, where they make the cider onsite. We didn’t do any tasting this year but we definitely bought some to go.

We pulled up around the same time almost exactly, and headed off through the grounds, which we had all to ourselves. We kept our masks on, as good practice for the kids, and my mom as well, and maintained our distances although it was just us.

Well, us and this dog. He was with us our whole excursion and didn’t stray too far from my niece’s side. He lives there and decided to hang out with us.

It was an absolutely glorious morning – sunny, warm, a bit crisp. The perfect day for our adventure. We messed about in the orchard, laughed about our dog friend and honorary group member – we are the James Herriot Primary school after all..

Then we headed to the store area to shop for our gourds and pumpkins and all the good things. All the pumpkins were really up there so no picking through the patch for one but that is ok, much easier to lug them the two feet back to the car then all that way. We did have to run in to pay and to pick up our cider, and I also added a jar of honey from their hives to my order.

And the dog’s name turned out to be “Greater”. All Creatures Great and Small, anyone?

Happy Fall everyone!

A Misty Morning at the Orchard

Wyatt and I met my SIL Chrissy and my niece L. at the orchard yesterday, and I am so glad that we went. I was very nervous, it was 8 days post surgery and it would be our first outing too. I am glad I felt brave enough to say yes, because we had fun, despite the slightly damp day.

Chrissy and L. met us at the orchard at 11:30, and Chrissy masked up and headed into the store to grab out bags for picking while I stood between the cars and watched both kids. Then we headed back to the orchard, where they had row after row of apple varieties to choose from. Our little caravan of two headed all the way to the end before turning around and deciding we wanted to head for the honey crisp first. We parked and we put a blanket down as our base and went up and down the rows plucking the apples from the branches. The kids thought it was super fun! When we finished that area, we wandered over to the golden delicious and braeburn section, and added more apples to our bag.

Our bags were filling up and getting heavy, but we were not ready to call it quits yet. We had one more small section we wanted to check out, the winesap apples. I have to be honest, I am not certain what these apples are like but we liked the name. Wyatt was super tired by this point so I stuck him in the back of the Subaru to hang out with while Chrissy and L. explored the field across the way, looking at the pumpkins, looking so autumnal sprawled out in the dew among their vines. L. came bouncing back, filled with excitement and wanting to show me the baby pumpkin that she saw so Chrissy stayed with Wyatt while I followed L. across the little bridge to the pumpkins. And we saw some enormous pumpkins as well as some teeny baby pumpkins. I guess fall has arrived, at least to our part of Michigan! I joked with Chrissy too, that she looked like a character from a Jane Austen novel walking through the fields..

By this point all of our feet were soaking wet and squishy, so it was time to call it a day. I would have loved to have had a picnic among the trees for Chrissy’s birthday (did I mention it was her birthday?) but it was too gross. We loaded the kids up and headed back to the front, making a little stop at the pick your own flowers field, where we realized we had no way to cut a bouquet. I never realized that one day I would be standing in a damp field lamenting that I didn’t have a pocket knife, but there I was. (and I came home and added a pink Opinel to my Christmas list..I will never go without flowers again! Lol)

All in all, we had a great time. I am so glad that we went, despite my anxiety, because I really think being with family, a change of scenery, and the fresh air did Wyatt and I both a world of good. I am so happy that we were able to share in Chrissy’s day! And look at this happy face!

Weekend Vibes..

We had a fantastic long weekend together – it was a nice combo of lazy and active. Lots of reading, sitting around, playing games, but also exploring – and even some socially distanced social time!

On Saturday a few friends and I got together for some 6-8 feet away drinks and conversation. I put on a dress, my new necklace, slipped on sandals and off I went. We even all brought our own beverages and glasses so that we didn’t touch things others had touched – and so Kelly didn’t have to wash a glass. It was so nice to just see their faces – and I was so relaxed, watching the birds. And this was the very first time I had been away from Wyatt since March 12. I probably could have curled up on the outdoor couch and taken a nap, I became so comfy. I have taken to naming my friend’s homes lately (I blame all that British tv), and I have decided Kelly’s house should be called Refuge.

Then Sunday and Monday we spent pond dipping, as part of our homeschooling for the week! This week is all about ponds and frogs so we were hoping to catch some minibeasts in our catch and release beach aquarium. We only managed to find an aquatic snail in the water, but we did spot a Northern Water Snake, two turtles, a Great Blue Heron, a ton of Red-Winged Blackbirds, heard a bullfrog, and a little American toad! We brought the toad home as our guest for a few weeks, then we will let her go. Wyatt has named her Uh-Oh. the funny part is my brother found a toad yesterday and brought it in as a pet for my niece (who named hers Cupcake). But it all started with Kelly who found one last week and brought it in to avoid the cold snap. Her toad is a beast! They named her Theodora.

Later Monday evening my brother invited us, my mom, and my sister-in-law’s mother over for a socially distanced bonfire. It was so very nice to be near my family again, even though I itched to hug them all! Again, we all brought our own drinks and cups. What a strange new world we live in. Regardless, it was so fantastic to see their faces and talk to them, and not through a screen! Wyatt was so happy too, and just kept pointing to everyone and saying “Wow”. It was his first time seeing his family in months, and even though we were apart, it was wonderful to be sitting and talking together.

It was nice to be back exploring and seeing people again, no matter how we had to do it.

My Lumberjack’s Birthday Party

So… after a week of birthday celebrations, we finally had Wyatt’s big family party! I have been looking forward to this for a while now, and while it always seems like a great deal of coordinating, we pulled it off! We had some help though from our family, which was a wonderful help!

Wyatt loves to be outside in the woods, and he also loves pancakes – so I thought that a lumberjack party would be fun! With a March birthday too, it works with the maple sugaring season as well! We planned with our local metropark (where we spend quite a bit of time, and have for over 16 years we learned recently!) to have Wyatt’s birthday party there, and one of their interpreters would do a maple sugaring demonstration for the kids as part of the party. Maple syrup, pancake cake, woods and nature – the perfect recipe for my kiddo’s party!

The metropark did such a great job, seriously. Before we even got there, they had the tables arranged, coloring sheets that were lumberjack and maple syrup themed, and little trees set to mimic the woods outside. They even had a stump (that I think was lacquered in the 70s) set up with dry erase markers to wish Wyatt happy birthday on!

However, the weather was beautiful and sunny and 60 degrees! Last year on Wyatt’s birthday, we all drove around in a blizzard. This year, a gorgeous spring day. Not that we were complaining! But we did change the plan – Kevin the interpreter suggested a nature hike with the kids instead, and we quickly agreed! The sap wasn’t running for him despite great effort, so it made sense for us to take advantage of the weather. And the kids and adults both had a great time!! We learned about skunks, birds, beavers, trees, maple syrup, and even spotted a fairy door in the tree.

By the time we were done, everyone was hungry! For our lumberjack meal, we served chili, rice (my husband’s family always eats chili over rice – I never had it like that until I met him and it is GOOD), cornbread, and macaroni and cheese for the kids. We kept it simple but hearty, because the cake was the food star of the event…

It was more golden brown in person, and it was delicious!!! It was deliciously vanilla and the perfect texture.

Everyone ate their fill and talked and caught up with each other, and the kids played and played. The sun was shining, and it was just such a great couple of hours. My lumberjack had a fantastic time and by the time we got home needed a nap, the sign of a great day when you are five.

Our Family UK Dinner

A few months ago, my brother and his wife (Devin and Chrissy) had the great idea of having a big family get together, where we would all bring dishes that are themed around the UK. So, where did this idea start? When Chrissy made a figgy pudding for Christmas then realized too late that it needed a million years to cook, and wouldn’t be ready in time for dinner!

Like many Americans, our family loves to talk about our ancestry. I am second and third generation on my mother’s side, and their foodways have been kept pretty tightly in our family. My ancestry is all huddled up in a little corner of the world apparently.

Broken down, I am 48% Irish and Scottish, 33% English, Welsh, and Northwestern European, 10% French, 7% Italian, and 2% Norwegian. My ancestors didn’t seem to stray that far from home. Homebodies I guess, like me.

Anyway, back to dinner! We were all really excited about this get together. The winter is so long and this gave us something to really look forward to. And we had so many different dishes to try! We all ate so darn much! I have to apologize for a lack of photos, I took really poor food photos – I guess it is not my forte. I did take a few humorous ones….

Chrissy and Devin really put a lot of work into this gathering! They made Rumbledthumps, which was absolutely delicious and my very favorite dish of the day! They also made potato stovies, and yes, that figgy pudding!

Chrissy’s sister made Corned Beef and Cabbage, and her mother made a vegetarian Irish Stew. My cousin worked hard on Yorkshire Pudding, which was a huge undertaking in our family, as my grandmother was the only one to really make it for almost our whole lives, and none of us have been able to replicate it since. He also made Irish Soda Bread, his signature bake. Chrissy’s father made an Irish Lentil soup, and my Uncle Art made meat pies. My mom chimed in with butter tarts and a custard pie, and Billy and I? Well ours failed. We were the weakest link! I had planned on making Cullen Skink, but could not find smoked haddock anywhere! I wasn’t sure if I could substitute another type of smoked fish, so I was scrambling at the end to find a different dish. I thought of Colcannon, but that is way too similar to rumbledthumps (which has the better name to be sure!). I thought of a beef stew, but felt like there were already a lot of stews and then the corned beef as well. So we ended up making Scottish macaroni pies – are these really a thing? I decided on them eventually because I thought maybe the kids would eat them.

We looked at old photos, and listened to bagpipe music – a fixture in our family, as my mom and aunt were Highland Dancers and my uncle was the drum major in St. Andrew’s Band in Detroit.

We had some drinks and some laughs and all in all, it was a wonderful way to spend a February evening, close together as a family, enjoying food, and reminiscing. I am looking forward to next year – and planning my dish now!