Northern Michigan – Vacation Part Two

I have always wanted to go to the wineries on Mission Point. I finally got the chance to, albeit with a preschooler in tow. We didn’t get to do as much wine tasting as we would have (my 3 year old niece, my brother and sister-in-law were with us too), but my SIL and I decided that a girls trip there is an absolute must in our future! We at least got some good ideas of where we wanted to go.

We did get to do some cool stuff, besides gawking at the beautiful scenery that surrounded us. First we headed to the end of the peninsula to the lighthouse. I think this one of my favorite parts of the whole trip! The history, the water, the trees and the forest surrounding it – I could easily imagine being a lighthouse keeper there, in the middle of winter, with my snowy owl visitors from the Arctic.

 

 

After traipsing about with the other tourists, we headed toward Brys Estate Vineyards and their Secret Garden. It was the perfect place to go with our littles. A big beautiful garden for the kids to explore, pick blueberries, cut lavender, and enjoy the riot of color and flowers.

We walked around the garden for quite a while, until the rain that had threatened all day began in earnest. Chrissy and I took a moment to run into the store and look around while the guys loaded up the kids. If you do go to the Secret Garden and you have the chance to buy their lavender shortbread, do it!! It was delicious!! I wish I had bought more while I was there, since the whole car wanted to devour mine, including the kiddos. I of course shared but had I known I would have bought more. Chrissy and I also took advantage of the rain and the kids sleepiness to enjoy a record breaking for time wine tasting at Brys Vineyards, up the hill from the gardens. The ones we tried were delicious! I particularly enjoyed their deep reds. Yum!

By this point it was time to meet the rest of our family in Leland (Fishtown) one of our favorite parts of the whole trip every year. I love touring through the stores, and I of course love the Dam Candy Store. I also pop into the book store every year to make a purchase, of course. A few years ago there was a campaign to Save Fishtown! And I am glad they were able to. My husband has gone backpacking on Manitou Island, about three hours by ferry boat from Fishtown, and it would not be the same without the gray, weather beaten shacks turned stores that remain of the old fishing village.

Afterwards we headed back to the cabin, and laid low for the rest of the night. We sat by the lake and took turns with our kids, drinking wine under the stars. It was a wild night, with high winds, which I loved because then I could wear my new thrifted sweater that I got for the trip. I can’t wait for autumn to arrive so I can wear it more frequently!

The next day was our day to go home! Vacation flies by so swiftly. We said goodbye to our lake, with the clearest, calmest water that it had had the entire time we were there. We packed up, headed out, and made our first stop at a nearby small town, Frankfort, which my brother had told us had a beautiful beach. He was so right. We stretched our legs and took in some beauty before we had to get in the car for the long haul home. We then detoured across the fingertips of Michigan to Hartwick Pines, a state forest. I went there once when I was a kid and loved it, being surrounded by the old growth woods. There is something about trees and me. I love to stand silently in a wood, with tall pines and trees all around. The woods speak to my soul. I loved it there. I want to go back one day again, and spend a little bit more time there. Billy had to pull me away from the large windows, there were just so many birds!!! Evening Grosbeaks, Red-Breasted Grosbeaks, Hummingbirds everywhere. I could have sat there for hours. The visit newly invigorated our desire to start visiting as many National Parks as we can (a desire that is also being fueled right now by the book I am reading, Dear Bob and Sue).

All in all, it was a pretty great trip. I can’t wait to see what next summer ‘s adventures up north brings!

Saturday Snapshot – Northern Michigan, Part One!

SaturdaySnapshot

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads

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We just got back from a short family trip to northern Michigan, one of my very favorite places! The natural beauty that is Michigan is spectacular and I love the chance to get back to the tall trees, cool breezes, lakes, and birds. But first we had to get there, and the drive from the Detroit area is a little  longish with a three year old. So we pulled off for a quick pit stop for lunch and to stretch our legs in Frankenmuth, a tourist attraction in its own right. Designed like an old German village, they are known for their large family style chicken dinners. We skipped the chicken and went to a local pizza place instead, which turned out to be perfect. We also stopped for cheese at the Cheese Haus.

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My little mouse.

We stopped for the night about an hour outside Traverse City, to save a few bucks on a hotel. We were going to get there late, and didn’t care about being in Traverse City proper until the next day. We had fun just bumming around with each other. Wyatt really enjoyed the Ikea catalog I had brought with me.

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The next day we got up early and heading into Traverse. We were meeting my brother and his family there, and were going to spend the day shopping around and then eating a celebratory dinner for Billy’s birthday. It was a sweltering and busy day in TC, with high temps and humidity, and the Film Festival going on as well. Jane Fonda was supposed to be around somewhere but I never spotted her. We traipsed in and out children’s boutique stores (I bought Wyatt the cutest Tea Collection shirt!), and many bookstores, our favorite. I would say most of our day was spent browsing the shelves of bookstores, one of my fave things to do.  I bought Wyatt a lovely book about flowers and insects – and I learned that bees like caffeine too! Some flowers contain caffeine and the bees like those flowers – this fact makes bees even more cool in my eyes. I also made a huge list of books that we need to check out from the library or add to our own home library!

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We had an earlyish dinner at The Jolly Pumpkin (omg that white wine Sangria was yummy on a hot day!) then headed toward our lake cabin home for the next few days. My dad was meeting us there with his wife, and my nephew. The graciously treated us to the time there – my stepmom has been going to the same cabin and spot on the lake for 28 years, and when we joined her family, it became a little bit ours too. It is a nice tradition to share!

The next day we headed into Glen Arbor, a little town we always drove through but I had never been to. It was super adorable! That bookstore alone..I could happily live in Glen Arbor if I could work at that bookstore. A girl can daydream! If you are ever nearby, check it out – The Cottage Book Shop.

I was also excited to see that an organization called Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes was helping to make Sleeping Bear Dunes, the beach, and the lake more accessible to those with disabilities! As a nature loving parent of a child with mobility challenges, we constantly are trying to find ways to connect Wyatt with nature more. Hikes are easier now, since he is still a little guy, but as he gets older we may have to get more inventive or seek out organizations such as this one.

And that house! So picturesque! It is an inn called Thyme Inn, and it has an enormous garden in back that you can see from the road. I would love to stay there one day, but maybe on a different sort of trip, one that doesn’t involve my three year old. Lol. A girls trip or a getaway for Billy and I, perhaps. We have not gone away without the boyo yet, but maybe in the next few years we will start.

 

Dino-Might!

I love dinosaurs. I always have. I used to dream about being a paleontologist when I was a kid, but then realized I was better at words than math. I have a love for the sciences even though I am not great at them, and I want to pass this along early to my son. I started collecting dinosaur crafts and projects and coloring books and all sorts of fun things to do with him in July, which I deemed would now be known as Dino-month.

So I was super excited when I saw that a nearby indoor playscape/preschool/wellness center was having a drop in class for preschoolers and toddlers all about dinosaurs!! There would be songs and stories and sensory bins and a craft – all for $12! I was so excited to take Wyatt. I knew he would love it. Then I realized…I would have to socialize too! My biggest nightmare as an introvert super shy momma, is interacting with other parents. But, like we push our kids to move past their fears, so must we as parents push past ours. And it is good for us to get out of our comfort zones too – I need to grow and move forward as well. So, this was it for me. Wyatt needs to do this sort of thing, it is so good for all kids to interact with their peers and all that, and especially for Wyatt. As a kid with some developmental disabilities due to his CP, he picks up a lot of language and movement by being around other kids. So, it was time for this momma to toughen up and go talk to some strangers! Lol.

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I had this super cute outfit laid out for him to wear – but then it got breakfast on it and had to be changed. Note to self: put cute outfit on preschooler after he eats..

We finally rolled up to the place, which was in the middle of an adorable neighborhood. I was feeling nervous, made worse when I walked right in to the end of the baby and mom yoga class that was before the Jurassic Wonders class. But the yogi (whom I actually knew, I met her when our husbands worked together years ago) is a sweet welcoming soul who made me feel less awkward and less like bolting back out the door. Wyatt and I took a seat and waited for the class to clear out then I put him down to explore. The place, Nature’s Playhouse, was super accessible and I totally loved its vibe. Natural materials, solid and sturdy wooden toys everywhere, tables scattered about, puzzles, a rocking board. I felt like I was in a kid’s secret fort. Wyatt dug it, and enjoyed that shoes weren’t supposed to be worn in that room, since he hates wearing shoes. He had a big grin on his face the whole time we were there.

As the rest of the parents and kids trooped in, we circled up with our kids for story time  and songs. Afterwards, there were two sensory areas, an area with dinosaur books to flip through, including a cool one with different textures to touch, and the craft, which was painting a dinosaur with sponges and paint. Wyatt and I started with the painting, getting the messiest out of the way first.

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I think he did a great job! After that we headed over to the sifting through the sand bin, where the kids used paintbrushes to brush away the sand to find the dinosaur stickers hidden under the sand. Wyatt seriously loved this the best. Most of the other kids liked the area where you dug through beans and did some pouring and jazz, but Wyatt liked the sand area. We happily played over there, I made awkward (on my end) conversation with another mother, then, it was time to go! The class passed by super quickly.

I am so glad that I went – Wyatt had a blast! I will have to watch for other classes that fit into our crazy life schedules, even if it is just to drop in and play. It is worth it for the big grin I saw on my son’s face the whole time we were there.

Walking back to the car, I noticed the sidewalk full of acorn hats, something I had missed on the way in. I stopped and picked one up. Acorns are special to our family, almost a talisman. My Wyatt is my acorn, my tiny boy – and like my grandma said, “From tiny acorns grow mighty oaks.”  Stumbling on these acorns was a reminder, I think, of how we all need to grow, to be strong and to be mighty..

I am looking forward to our next visit!

Gearing up for Storm Season

Spring has arrived, and everything seems to be coming back to life. Birds are chirping in the trees, green shoots are emerging from the earth,  the sun is shining brightly in the morning.

However, spring in Michigan also means storm season has arrived, with severe storm and tornado watches and warnings. My dad works for disaster services, and has volunteered for the Red Cross for years and years. His prepper mentality has rubbed off on me over the years, and while I am not quite to my dad’s level, I am trying to be more prepared for what comes our way, especially with a toddler who I want to keep safe at all times.

So with my dad’s input, I put together a small Stormy Day Kit. The helmet is all my dad’s suggestion – I would never have thought that. He pointed out to me though that so many people are injured during tornados due to flying debris in their home that a helmet is a must, at least for Wyatt. Many times cities or organizations have bike safety awareness events in May, and often they hand out free helmets to kids. Keep an eye out for one of these events, and maybe you can score a free helmet for your safety kit. Or for your child to use while bicycling if they don’t have one already! The one in my picture is the one we put on Wyatt for bike rides or when he is outside in his gait trainer, but I hope to pick him up a spare at a bike safety event this month.

My Stormy Day Kit

First and foremost, a weather radio is a must. I really liked this one by Esky. It is small, easily portable, charged by a hand crank, charges your cell phone, and is solar powered in case you want to take it camping or hiking even. It’s water resistant, has an extra flashlight for you, and has AM/FM/WB stations. We just leave ours tuned to the weather band though during inclement weather.

Flashlights, extra batteries are a given and easily added, and a first aid kit is another necessity, although one hopefully you never have to use, except to maybe  steal a Band-Aid from. (although if you do, replace it!) I got this one at Target for less than five dollars! I am probably going to pick one up for my car’s summer adventure kit too.

Non-perishable snacks and water are a good idea, in case you need to take cover for a while. I also added bubbles to help entertain Wyatt, since I wouldn’t want to run my phone’s battery down too much. I will probably also add a book, and some crayons and a coloring book as well. And since he is still a little guy, a diaper and wipes. You never know right? Kids need a diaper change at the worst times usually – just ask my friend Kelly! An extra phone charger to keep with your kit would be a great addition. Best to have all the chargers in my opinion. If you will need medication, remember to add that in as well, either add in some extra if you have it or grab it on the way to sheltering in an emergency. I also threw in some hand sanitizer, because I always have it with me. Lol.

I also have two fabulous apps on my phone – Code Red and the FEMA weather app. Both are free and will keep you up to date on any emergency situations. Code Red actually alerted us to a hostage situation that was taking place nearby, where a man with a gun had barricaded himself into a building. We hadn’t been watching tv or anything, so we had no idea that it was happening. It really didn’t affect us, but it was a good thing to be aware of. Basically, it made me go check to see that all of our doors and windows were locked. So it was good to have. I will add though, that they do seem to notify me a lot, especially the FEMA app. I don’t know if there are settings I can adjust but it is definitely something to be aware of, especially if that is something that will affect your phone plan and charges.

Your own stormy day kit can be personalized and customized to fit your needs and your family’s need, based on age of kids, no kids, pets, and geographic area. For more ideas, check out Fema.gov and Ready.gov and to just learn more about how to safe this spring and summer. They have all the instructions on what to do during all sorts of weather – they are the experts! I am not a professional or anything, just a person who tries to be prepared and organized. (tries, being the key word!) And that reminds me- I am going to add a whistle to my stormy day kit.

Please make sure to do the research necessary to keep your own family safe – these are just my ideas and what I have in my own kit as suggestions and to get you thinking about what you need for where you live and for your family. A starting off point, if you will. If you do end up making a stormy day kit, I would love to hear what you learned from your research and what you added to yours!

 

P.S. This is not an affiliate post! 

storm kit

Wrap Up to the Weekend

The weather was, for the most part, glorious this weekend, with the exception of Saturday morning.

It was gray, cold, rainy and damp. It was awful. Billy went to the movies and left Wyatt and I to our own devices. And my devices believed we needed scones. I am not a person who bakes a lot, but my grandma baked all the time, everyday almost. And she was so good at it, turning out delicious pies, crumbly jammy tarts, cookies, and scones, just to name some of her specialties. I have never made scones myself, but I have eaten plenty over the years, and I spent much of my time growing up watching my grandma and then my mom make pastry. I felt slightly prepared, and the recipe looked pretty simple. I used a recipe online, I need to find my grandma’s for next time, although this one was very similar to hers.

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And they turned out awesome, if I do say so myself. Wyatt and I nibbled on those for a bit then later we took little man for ice cream, because it was a beautiful afternoon compared to the morning, and ice cream was required. And swinging on swings in the park, which we also did.

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This kid takes his ice cream seriously.

On Sunday we went to a vintage bike swap meet, where there were literally hundreds of old bikes. It felt so much nostalgic and buddy movie, like The Goonies or Now and Then or Stranger Things. There were many, many sparkly banana seats, banana seats with stripes, road bikes, dirt bikes, old bikes – like super old. There was an old Schwinn cycle truck, with a gigantic basket. And the cutest little kid bikes ever. We don’t know if that is  something that Wyatt will ever be able to do with his Cerebral Palsy, but you never know. We will just keep working hard, and maybe one day. If not, there are plenty of amazing adaptive bikes out there too, even bikes that are designed for someone to ride and someone to do the pedaling. So, there are many options.

I also loved all the different names of the bikes – I am not a bike person, so I don’t know all the terms. My husband does, he is a bike fanatic. So I will just call them the names. There were so many different ones! The Meteor, Stingray, Stardust, Phantom, Hornet. It was my favorite part, I think reading all these different names and kinds. We also saw tandem bikes, and unicycles, and really old bikes, like Penny Farthings. The sun was gleaming and shining like crazy off all the chrome and it was just a beautiful day, with the sun finally shining. We had a great time.

And seriously, isn’t that Lil’ Tiger adorable!!! The woman selling it told me that her son learned to ride a bike using that bike. And I love the addition of the training wheels and bat. So darn cute!

Back to the same old routine today – preschool, cleaning, work. Blah. But at least the sun is still shining and we had a great weekend. You can always look back on a happy memory for a pick me up!

Still Waiting on Spring

Michigan is still waiting for spring, it seems. Sometimes we get a sneak peek, but then it hides away again. Today is sunny – but also 24 degrees. I have strawberry plants that have arrived and want to be planted, but the ground is still frozen! For now they are living in the house, but I am going to have to come up with a new plan for these guys, my awesome Viking strawberries.

Yesterday was sunny and mild except for the crazy wind. The wind was biting cold when it slammed against you, but when it wasn’t stealing your breath, the day was actually not too bad. Our family celebrated the return of the sun to our area by heading downtown to Belle Isle and visiting the aquarium and conservatory, where we not only got the sun, but we also had humid temperatures, tropical plants, heat. It was wonderful, despite the fact that we were dressed for winter but walking through a greenhouse.

It was jam packed there – I am guessing everyone in the whole metro area was out enjoying the weather. We have had gray skies for too long! This whole state has a Vitamin D deficiency, as we wait for spring.

The garden was beautiful, full of green growing plants, smelling of earth and warmth. We saw a banana tree, a lemon tree, an orange tree, a pomelo tree. Cacti. A ginger plant, pink puffballs. Giant leaves bigger than Wyatt, delicate fronds, wispy ferns. A water fountain. Even signs that a cat lives there somewhere, but not the cat itself, although I would have loved that, and Wyatt would have too. He loves his kitties.

It was a nice day, that we ended with pizza slices from Supino’s, which has the most amazing pizza ever. It was Wyatt’s first time eating there, and he kept asking for more. Another fan is made. We stuck with the basics but I love their pizza with basil – I love basil anything. The slices are huge, thin crusted, so you can just fold them over and eat. But there is something about the crust, some taste, some deliciousness we can’t put our finger on – that is where the magic is. In that crust. We had a car picnic so I didn’t get any photos, but next time I will.

I feel inspired! This week we are going to start seeds indoors. Normally it would be too late, but with this delayed spring I think we should be ok.

How about you guys? Any thing in particular you like on pizza? Are you a thin crust person or a thick crust person?

 

Third Birthday Celebration

My little guy is three. Three! I can scarcely believe how fast these years are going by. It seems like just yesterday he was a tiny peanut in the NICU.

The day Wyatt was born was the coldest day of the year that year. This year, we had a severe winter storm alert the night before. Schools were called off, big snow, ice and just generally crappy conditions were forecast. We were disappointed since Billy had taken the day off of work for us to celebrate as a family. And when we got up, the weather was pretty nasty. But within the hour, it began to warm up, and thaw. And melt. Huge snow clumps were raining from trees and telephone wires and house awnings, like enormous snowflakes. The sky was blue, the air was not blisteringly cold, and there was no bone chilling winds. So, we loaded up with multiple coats and layers to prepare for the day and whatever it might throw at us, and headed out into the blue.

First stop was Tim Hortons. Our guy loves doughnuts, and as a special treat, we had doughnuts for breakfast. Wyatt devoured a doughnut with sprinkles, most of his father’s sour cream glazed, and then followed that up with a few bites of Timbit. Not his normal breakfast obviously, but a special birthday one. I had a giant coffee and my favorite chocolate dip. Billy had the remnants of the doughnuts that Wyatt didn’t eat. I guess I lucked out since Wyatt is not a chocolate fan. 🙂

Once Wyatt finally stopped eating doughnuts, we set our sights north to the Detroit Zoo. We have a membership to the zoo, and we love it. One of the things we love most about it is that with a membership, we never feel pressured to “do” the whole zoo in a day, if we don’t want to. We can show up, walk around for an hour or so, just visit our favorite animals. We do of course visit all the exhibits some days, but most of the time we amble about, taking our time. And we love to go on weird off days, when we have it mostly to ourselves. And Wyatt’s birthday was perfect – almost empty, probably due to the fact that it was midmorning on a Friday, and that the weather had been miserable in the morning. Plus, you know, it is winter. Lol. So, we had the zoo to ourselves.

First stop was the amazing Polk Penguin Center. It is seriously awesome, with a 4-D experience to enter, like you are on a boat headed to the Antarctic, complete with day and night changes, storm simulations, and even a little rain and water spray. Wyatt loved that part, getting wet in the spray. He loves the penguins, probably because he can get face to face with them!  That little trio of Gentoo penguins waddled on over to preen and show off and pose – the volunteer told us that the Gentoo are the friendliest and love to have their photos taken! If you want to see the penguins in action, you can check out their webcam feed.

From the Penguin Center, we headed further in, toward the River Otter habitat, one of our family favorites. This little river otter family is so delightful and entertaining, the way they zoom around, and play. We could stand and watch them for a long time, and we were the only ones there besides the volunteer for a good while. She shared some pretty fun stories, and the exhibit itself is relaxing, made of solid wood like you are in a cabin up north. It was a good moment, watching the otters play, in the brisk air, the scent of pine around us. We were so delighted by them we didn’t take photos!

Next we had planned to go through the Reptile house to warm up, but it was way too humid in there, and after being out in the cold, it was too much of a temperature change so we headed back out. At least the reptiles were comfortable though!

We decided to just walk a little further before leaving – the zoo is pretty huge and we didn’t want Wyatt to get too cold. So our last and final stop were the camels. Usually this family is sleeping or just relaxing all together on the ground, but today they were up and at ’em, super active. There was one right by the wall too, we could hardly believe it! They are pretty cute, especially the babies! Wyatt was entranced. He is usually a ham, posing for the camera (just like the Gentoos!), cheesing it up, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the camels to look at me long enough for a photo!

All in all, it was a fantastic visit, albeit short. Next time we will see more, the Red Pandas, the lions, the wolves, the kangaroos, the polar bears (our Nuka just got a girlfriend!). All favorites of ours. One thing I love about the Detroit Zoo is how many of their animals are rescues. They do such a great job, and while I don’t know the percentage of their animals that they have rescued, I do know that a great deal of them were. It’s definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area!

We headed back home and had one of Wyatt’s favorite dinners – fish sticks and macaroni. The night sky even showed off for his birthday, with a clear sky and a giant brilliantly bright moon. My boy loves to be outside at night, stargazing, so this was the perfect ending to our day.

He was a happy little boy.