Late Summer at the Village

Last Friday I met my sister-in-law and niece at Greenfield Village for an early morning visit. I love it there so much, and as Wyatt and I ease into school, I hope to work some mornings there in to our schedule more often. But, this visit was just for fun, a last little vestige of summer before Dino Girl started school.

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful morning either – not too hot or chilly, and the sun was shining and the sky was so blue. Perfect really. I had my wagon for Wyatt, and my niece wanted to ride in there with him too, so my SIL and I took turns pulling it around while we walked and chatted. And admired all of the gardens!

We made sure to stop and visit at our favorite houses, the Cotswold Cottage and the Dagget Farmhouse. I always joke if the world went sideways for real I would move in to the Cottage at the Village. It’s a real cottage too, moved here stone by stone from England.

And this farmhouse, I love everything about it. When we were there they had the interpreters inside making dye from flowers and spinning wool. The kids were enthralled with the spinning wheel; Wyatt kept asking to do it, while Dino Girl had lots of good questions about the process.

From here we wandered into the last, big garden. The kids were good sports but were starting to fade a bit by this time. And they were ready for the ice cream we promised them. We still had about twenty minutes before the frozen custard opened though, since it wasn’t even 11 am yet, so we rolled up into the garden. I love a late summer garden. I feel like the flowers are throwing all their colors at us, their last final hurrah before they completely fade away in the fall. Like look at me, look at me! So we did.

Finally, finally, it was time for frozen custard!

This little building is so sweet, isn’t it?

We got our treats, ate them up, and by this time, it was time to head home. I had my eye doctor appointment that afternoon so I needed to get back and get ready, yuck. It was a very relaxing way to end the week though, and we had the best time.

First Day of School, Flowers, and a Frog

Last week we started homeschooling again – I can’t believe this kid is in first grade! Where does time go? I am pretty sure he was just a tiny baby like yesterday. Here we go again, barefoot and crazy hair and all!

We are still finding our rhythm, the pace of our day. First grade is a little more demanding but I still want it to be enjoyable and not a chore. I want Wyatt to look forward to our learning time everyday, and with only week one under our belts, we are still muddling through. We will get it though. I am hoping to do a homeschooling curriculum post this Friday; I am so excited about what we are doing this year and want to share!

We visited Belle Isle and the new garden installation, the Oudolf Garden. It was so beautiful! This garden was designed by Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, after he received a “love letter from Detroit” written by the volunteers of the Garden Club of Michigan. Apparently he was impressed by the energy of our city. Oudolf has designed places like the High Line in New York, as well as the Toronto Botanical Garden to name a few. It was pretty neat to see this four season garden and know that a famous garden designer was behind it all.

I enjoyed walking around the gardens with my family, but I was also really excited to move on to the next part of our day – adopting a Pacman Frog. As you all know, I am a lover of all creatures and my sweet little Dash passed away recently. My butterfly project will be finished soon, and I feel like our house will feel sort of empty, or as empty as it can feel with three people, three senior cats, two leopard geckos, and a ghost mantis sharing 900 square feet can feel. But there is always room for a few more, right? Especially a Pacman frog. These frogs are not really a pet you can interact with physically. In fact, handling them is not good for them. And sort of not good for you, as they have teeth and can bite as they are aggressive eaters. They also spend a lot time just sitting in one place burrowed down. Am I selling this frog or what? Lol. However, they are super cute and easy to care for and kind of just what I was looking for. They can live in a smaller tank, and don’t require too much. Plus, cute, again. I think she might be a chocolate mint pacman, but she could just be the “normal” version. Either way, we loves her already. So without further ado, meet Freddie the Frog!

Now you see her, now you don’t! I am seriously considering making some videos or designing an Outschool class with all of my creatures – I would love to share them and their care with elementary students somehow. One day it might be neat as well to share them in person with elementary schools as well!

I have a whole “wish list” of reptiles I would love too add to our home wildlife classroom – a Russian tortoise (a rescue one), a crested gecko, mourning geckos and dart frogs… they bring joy to our whole house, honestly. Even little crazy frogs like Freddie here. And eventually we will! For now we are very happy with all of our menagerie as it stands though.

Up North Michigan

We are home! We had so much fun all. So relaxing and full of new outdoor adventures, but with just enough down time to fully chill out and just be.

At the last minute though, it looked like this trip may not happen. At 10 pm Saturday night, I got a text from the rental property manager saying that the cabin may not be ready to be checked in to on Sunday, the day we were supposed to arrive. We were only going for three nights, and it is a four hour drive so we of course did not want to miss any time! I went to bed anxious and when I woke up the news wasn’t any better. There was a plumbing issue, and the plumber said it might take some time. After some texting back and forth, and some quick googling on my end, I was able to secure a night at a motel nearby (at a motel our family has stayed at before and I know and like even!), had that night at the cabin refunded, plus extra for the inconvenience. I didn’t ask for that part, but they offered which I thought was really nice. However, all this kerfuffle put us way behind schedule. And on top of all that, another disappointment! We we planning on meeting up with Jeanie from Marmalade Gypsy at her summer house on our way up, for lunch and a chat. With all of the confusion and uncertainty we agreed to meet this fall instead, since Jeanie doesn’t live too far away from us during the year. So that was a bummer but another meeting is in the works! I am looking forward to it!

Once everything was settled, we finally hit the road, Billy declaring “Let’s go to Traverse City” as we pulled out of the driveway, just like my dad used to when I was a kid. (Except he said, “Let’s go to Florida!”, his favorite vacation spot)

The drive wasn’t too bad. We stopped about halfway there to stretch our legs and get some snacks, and I couldn’t resist a photo with this big guy!

I actually have my Smokey the Bear t-shirt on, although you can’t see it here. He was telling us that the potential for fire was low that day. Good news!

We got back in and Wyatt and I began to get restless. He fell asleep and I checked the miles left to go about every five minutes until we got there. Finally we pulled into the familiar little town of Honor, Michigan. My stepmom’s family rents a cabin in this area every year for the last thirty years, and our family was introduced into this tradition about fifteen years ago, staying a night or two with them occasionally. The town feels like home after so many visits there, and while this was an unexpected detour, it wasn’t a bad one. We checked in to the Honor Motel, which is bright and cheery and airy and clean, dumped our stuff, flopped on the beds for half an hour, and when Wyatt told us he was hungry, decided we had probably better think about dinner.

We ordered take out from The Cherry Hut, ate it in our room, then ventured out, again, but this time to see the beach. We had considered going to the Cherry Bowl Drive-In theater, a family favorite, but want to wait until we can come up here with my brother and his family for Wyatt’s first visit. The kids will have a blast there. So, we opted for the beach. Every other year Wyatt has hated sand and the lake with a virulent passion. That was actually the impetus for my even booking this trip! I found a cabin that had a shallow lake and a small beach so Wyatt could give it a whirl. So when we took him to Beulah Beach we thought we would just sit up on the sand and look at the water as the sun set. However, as soon as Wyatt spotted the lake he had different plans.

He scoots when not using his walker, and he does this thing Billy and I call his superscoot when he is excited and going fast, his version of a run. He superscooted as fast as he possibly could to the water, and got right in! He was having a blast, and we had to stop him a few times from scooting in over his head! Mr. Fearless all of a sudden I guess. (which on some level makes me both excited and nervous!) After a bit of playing, in his clothes I might add, the sun was fading fast, and the water feeling colder. Good parents that we are, we hadn’t anticipated this and while we had a towel, we didn’t have a change of clothes. So we dried him off, and buckled him into his seat in just his skivvies. It’s just a five minute drive thank goodness, but he thought it was hilarious to not have on shorts or a shirt.

And by this point, we were all ready to just veg out for the rest of the night. We got Wyatt showered and in his jams, let him play with his tablet before he zonked out half an hour later, and we binged a few episodes of Virgin River on Netflix.

And, day one was done. A mixed up and muddled beginning, but it turned out just fine.

A Cup of Morning Coffee

Maggie likes to sit right next to me when I am working. She matches my “Strega Nona” mug perfectly. Lol.

My office is one of my happy places these days. It is so full of life in here, my lizards, my butterflies, the plants. The scent of dill and fennel from the caterpillar tanks remind me of being in my garden, and combined with the green wallpaper, the desk, the carpet, it just feels so peaceful in here.

I’ve thought a lot about my “happy places” this week. It’s been a rough week honestly, with lots of ups and downs, emotional moments, and frankly just all topsy-turvy. I’ve had to actively seek out those places and things that can ease my soul this week, fitting them in where I could. Time spent in here definitely is one of those places.

Another is outside in the butterfly garden. I love just being near all that beauty, observing the insects that are buzzing around, going about their own little lives in this place that I have created for them. And if I have a glass of wine with me in the evening, even better. I can’t wait to expand the garden next year honestly. We start small with our projects, and add on every year, and the garden is no different, a work in progress.

But I guess I am not all nature all the time. And especially this week, when our house has been so hot and humid. Our air conditioner is being fixed tomorrow thank goodness, but we have been either huddled in our bedroom with the portable unit, or sweating in the rest of the house. I needed an escape this week, and for me that is either the library (more on the library Wednesday..) or… Target.

I needed to be away. Out. Alone. Anonymous even. Not mom, not Erin. Just some lady walking around Target throwing various items into her cart, wandering the aisles looking at stuff. Plus, it is air conditioned. I also needed to be not hot.

Later this morning, we are visiting another of my happy places, one we haven’t been to for over a year. In fact, it was the last place we had been before lockdown March 2020. The nature center at our favorite metropark. We had celebrated Wyatt’s birthday, then boom, lockdown. During that time they were closed, they did a whole renovation to the interior, so today when we go, it is going to different looking, but still the same place. With the same people who work there who have become friends over the last twenty years, which is how long we have been going there. I am excited to visit and see the changes, and catch up with our friends, to watch the birds out the big windows, to explore the new displays. We are heading there soon, as soon as I finish up this coffee and we all get dressed. I can’t wait!

How about you? Where do you escape to? What are your happy places?

Spring to Snow..

We had so much fun on Sunday! The day was beautiful, not too warm, the sun was shining, and we decided it was a good day to go on a duck hunt. Not a literal duck hunt, but a duck hunt to find ducks and identify them since we had studied them the week before.

We started with dabbling and diving ducks, out in the wild. And found three whole mallards at the park. So, we hopped back into the car and headed off to Calder Dairy Farm. They have a pond there and usually have a ton of ducks and geese.

And it was a success! We were surrounded by ducks and geese – and other animals as well. Billy and I were like little kids, so excited about the calves and baby goats, the bunnies, just all of the life around us!

This calf licked Wyatt’s hand and he wasn’t quite sure how he felt about it. They are rougher than you might imagine! He did enjoy giving it pets though, same as Billy and I. We love Calder’s Dairy Farm – they are a working farm and have been since 1946. The best thing about them is that you can visit 7 days a week year round. They have a viewing room for the milking, and you can interact with some of the animals. I mentioned in another post about how important this is for those who don’t grow up in a rural area. Visiting these small farms allows children to experience these animals first hand, to pet them, feed them, wonder at them. To see their food chain, and to know it. Definitely not something you can do on a factory farm!

I’m fairly certain this sign was put up just for me.

As you can see, we did find more ducks! We left so happy, and with fresh milk, butter, and ice cream!

Monday was another beautiful day, and Wyatt and I spent part of our school day outside, learning about wildflowers and just enjoying the flowers and apple blossoms and birds.

Today though…. where did spring go??

I hope this second winter only lasts a short time. I am so worried about our apple tree, and all the little creatures being born, the tadpoles in the ponds, the insects that have emerged. Hopefully this will be very short cold snap.

Vloggers to chill out to

This year, more than ever, our house has had to find new routines and be flexible. While Billy is at work, Wyatt and I are pretty much at home all day, doing our thing – homeschool, art, playing. All that good stuff. And we have a great time together. But Wyatt is an extrovert, like his dad. He is nonstop, go go go all day, and his speech has improved like crazy this year, which is awesome and amazing and I love it. But as an introvert, there are days that by the time Billy gets home that I need some quiet alone time to decompress just from all the chatter and play. I love my child more than anything in this world, but mama needs a break sometimes!

So, on those nights, after dinner is done and all cleaned up, Billy starts bath time and I take a glass of red wine or a cup of mint tea, and hide myself away for a bit. To take a much needed deep quiet breath, and just chill, quiet my mind. In these moments I am too scattered to read, I don’t want to watch a television show, and I have found that Youtube works perfectly to fill the transition for me from go go go get it all done to evening and calm down time (that is what I call it for Wyatt- calm down time). I have found a few that are so quiet, gentle, and serene. I just sip my beverage and watch and listen. They are soothing and picturesque and inspiring.

The first is Fairyland Cottage. Her beautiful lilting accent, her slow way of living, her home and lifestyle make her videos a treat to watch. She shares about simple, quiet living, minimalism, nature, plants – all things that I love. And she makes tea a lot and I weirdly love the sounds of tea being made. I think it makes me think of when I was a little girl, and I would wake up and hear my mom in the kitchen, making her own tea, remembering that safe feeling I had knowing I was warm and cozy and my mom was there.

Another Youtube vlogger I enjoy has a similar name! The Cottage Fairy. Her videos are so beautiful, full of majestic landscapes, snow, meadows, books, dogs, and her bunny Mr. Darcy. She is an artist and a teacher and loves reading and lives in a tiny house. She also talks about living a very simple lifestyle. She painted a running rabbit over one of her doorways, and it looks so cute. I think I am going to ask Billy to do that here…lol.

The next one is a little less solitary and slow living, but still is very soothing to watch most of the time. Trout and Coffee is a young guy just kind of living the best life, in nature, vintage cars, great experiences. And good coffee too apparently. His videos have spectacular shots of landscapes, the kinds that make people dream.

These are my top three favorites for taking a beat, decompressing, restoring some peace and quiet in myself before getting back to it. Sometimes we just need the space to be able to take a deep breath and relax for a few. This is a gentle escapism. Just grab your tea and a blanket and get cozy, and turn off for a minute.

My Fall Clothes Shopping Wish List

I am going to be honest here – I am not a big shopper, especially for clothes. Books? Yes. Art? Yes. Clothes? No. I would like to blame motherhood but that is not it, not really. I have never been interested much, but yeah, I have let the wardrobe slide even further since I had Wyatt. I love buying him clothes but looking in my closet the other day I was like, ok, this is not good. Sure I am not going anywhere due to COVID but I need to do something about this situation. So many old t-shirts and ratty jeans, a few sweaters that were my dad’s that he gave to my husband but I stole because they were soft and comfy, a sweatshirt or two, and you have the contents of my closet, such as it is.

But what to buy, really, when I am not planning on doing much this fall? Well, I thought about that too. And, after seeing this closet reveal and how adorable Leslie looks, I was super inspired! I have a list, we will see how I do! (I need lists to survive..)

Gatherings this fall will be small, intimate, and (socially distanced) outside. And in Michigan, that means dressing for cooler weather. And fireside drinks! So this is where my mind went.

I totally definitely want this black Ivy Cardigan from tentree! It looks perfect for snuggling up in around a fire – plus it has a hood!! And the price is not bad either. I also love that they are sustainable and plant ten trees for every purchase.

And for those nights when I get together with my friends, hanging out by the firepit, sharing stories of homeschooling and parenting during these strange times over glasses of red wine, I think this sweater from H & M might help to make me feel a little less mom and a little more put together.

This shirt caught my eye..

And so did this one from United by Blue, another sustainable and ecofriendly company ..

Anndddd this one, again from tentree..

And I will probably need to get some new jeans and leggings while I am at it. Pair these with boots and warm socks and I should have a few things for fall!

Since I don’t shop too much, tell me, what do you think I should get? Where do you like to shop?

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!

From Smiles to Stitches

This week started off with Wyatt’s first day of kindergarten, homeschool style! We had laughs and learning, and my hope is to foster a school year full of wonder and curiosity.

Our week went awry midweek though – early Wednesday morning Wyatt started throwing up at about 3 a.m. I don’t talk much here about some of the medical things Wyatt deals with, but one thing he has is a shunt that regulates the fluid in his brain. He has had it since he was one month old, and has never had a revision, which apparently is pretty unusual for a child to go this long without needing one. Well, one sign that the shunt is malfunctioning is repeated vomiting with no discernible other reason. After he vomited three times, we gathered him up and packed a bag and headed to the ER, crossing our fingers it was nothing. It ended up being a shunt malfunction, which was discovered very quickly by the amazing staff at the hospital. Within hours, Wyatt was in surgery, then in recovery. Within 24 hours Wyatt was home recovering. It has been a whirlwind of emotion and this momma is tired. We both slept in today, and he is now watching Mickey Mouse and eating Fruit Loops while I sip coffee and type this up. Billy is taking today off and is on a little walk and we plan on taking it easy today, but the hospital expects Wyatt to be able to resume his normal life activities probably by Sunday, maybe just with more breaks.

The resilience of my child is amazing. His tenacity and strength of will, which can be a test on normal days, is his power during times like this. He is a little groggier than usual, but otherwise happy to watching his cartoons and singing along.

Summertime..

This week has been a mix of busy and just simply being and enjoying. I gave us a week off of schooling, and we had some good times playing outside as well as time inside in the A/C. Neither of us enjoy sun or heat that much…

We headed outside in the mornings and evenings, but in the heat of the day we tucked up in the house to craft or read or watch tv or just play and veg. Lots of that happened this week.

I am still catching up on the yard and garden areas – most of it is still wild and crazy but we have some semblance of actual garden areas coming together. I planted lots of lavender, and my lavender from last year is forming a wonderful little hedgerow in front. I love it. I also got some herbs and veggies in the ground, and some flowers, finally. Today we mulch and I am going to plant a few more seeds, which hopefully will grow for me. Fingers crossed all!

I signed up for a virtual conference/workshop for a homeschooling philosophy I wanted to learn more about, and this week there was pre-conference coffee chat every morning. While I did my work, so did Wyatt. I am such a huge researcher of everything . So before I move forward I have to do tons of research – reading, conferences, speaking with homeschool moms (looking at you Lisa!) Wyatt seems to enjoy doing work with me so that is a bonus. Although, he does do the Mom, Mom look thing every 5 seconds. Lol.

Sunday we also made soap together as a family – we did the melt and pour variety so that Wyatt could be involved, and it was so fun and easy! I wanted to show Wyatt some different things that could be made using honey, and I thought soap would be an interesting one. And then we could also use this adorable bee mold too, which was sort of for Wyatt but mostly for me. The soap turned out really well. It has a great lather and smells good too – I added lavender oil to it. If you are interested, I used this DIY recipe. We are hooked now though, and have a cart full of oils and soap making things filled over on Bramble Berry to make more. My sister-in-law makes soap from scratch, using lye, and is going to teach me next weekend, which should be really neat! Since we have to wear PPE anyway, it is almost the perfect activity to do with a friend.

Billy took some much needed vacation time this weekend, Friday and Monday off, so we have a long weekend of family time ahead of us. We have no real plans but I am sure we will have fun!