Friday, July 31, 2015


We spent the morning at the pool today, and I checked off what will probably be my last scavenger hunt item: goggles.  The hunt ends at midnight tonight.  I need to find something so motivating for August!


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Happy Campers

PicMonkey Collage

We just returned from making great memories on a four day, three night camping adventure, our first as a family.  We camped at Orchard Beach State Park in Manistee, MI.


I was hoping to camp within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore but waited too long to book our site.  Manistee is about an hour away from the dunes, which wasn't ideal, but there was plenty to do in the area.


The campground is along the Lake Michigan shore, and our site was literally steps from a bluff overlooking it. We were able to walk down to the beach to swim and found the large staircase to be well worth the effort.  The stairs and beach were much like what we enjoyed at the house we rented a few years ago located further south down the shore.


We enjoyed a trolley tour of Manistee one morning and were pleased that one of the trolley's two stops was right at the front of the campground.  Manistee is certainly not bustling, but the calm was a pleasant difference from the more touristy Traverse City and Mackinac areas where we have vacationed before. The history and architecture presented on the tour were interesting enough, and the kids did fine on the hour long ride.


Michael and Sophie requested a chance to fish on this trip. We were unsuccessful at catching any fish that afternoon, but spending that time with the kids and giving them a little experience was our real goal.  We'll go again closer to home some time.

Before heading out for this camping trip, the kids and I made a scavenger hunt together with items like "flying insect" and "yellow leaf"  The hunt lasted the whole trip and was fun for all of us.  Surprisingly, we never noticed any animal tracks, so I sent the kids to look for some as we cleaned up the campsite on the last morning.  The hunt was a great way to keep the kids occupied!

Leading up to this trip, we read The Legend of Sleeping Bear by Kathy-jo Wargin and Gisbert van Frankenhuyzen quite a bit this summer.  We borrowed it and a few other camping related books from the library:

The Night Before Summer Vacation by Natasha Wing and Julie Durrell
Camping by Nancy Hundal and Brian Deines
Ladybug Girl at the Beach by David Soman and Jacky Davis

My first attempt to read The Legend of Sleeping Bear earlier this summer was a bit strained.  I was almost as choked up as I was reading Love You Forever the first time when Michael and Sophie were newborns.  By the time we read about the grieving mama bear in the tent the night before our dune climb, the kids were basically telling the story to me.  The book really helped them to understand the geography (Wisconsin is way, way, way on the other side of the lake) and why mommy is a safety nut ("...I am watching over you and loving you forever.")  Sniff.

To get a head start on the heat, we left the campground early for Sleeping Bear Dunes.  We stopped at a scenic overlook and the visitor's center on the way, and looking back I wish we had waited on that, so the air would be cooler.  The weather was pleasant and dry for our trip, but on this day the temperatures did climb into the mid-nineties.

Sophie and Michael did great with the actual dune climb despite the sand already being quite hot on our feet in the mid-morning sun.  The kids wanted to keep on going once they reached the top of the big dune and climbed up and ran back down another small hill before resting at the top of the big dune for a bit.  Mike joked that he ran back down that little dune so fast that his feet fell off, and the kids got a kick out of digging his feet back out of the sand (at the ends of his legs, of course!).  They did the same joke a few times themselves.  We knew ahead of time that hiking the dunes further like Mike and I did years ago when we came by ourselves was not a good plan for this visit.  Maybe when the kids are bigger and on a cooler day. An hour or so on the dune climb was plenty.

No, nobody's crying in this picture.  Smiling.  She's smiling.

After a stressful attempt to take some pictures (sun was too bright for Sophie, and I was putting family Christmas card style pressure on the event--bad combo), we held hands and enjoyed gravity's help as we tumbled back down the dune.


After making some stops along the Pierce Stocking Drive along the lakeshore, we took a side trip into Traverse City for lunch and a couple of drinks at Right Brain Brewery.  A close friend of my mom's has some paintings on display there.  Since we were in the area we couldn't resist a return trip for ice cream at Moomer's.  I think this was our third visit, our second with the kids.  Eating a waffle cone of Cherries Moobilee while watching the cows that aided in its creation has become one of my favorite Michigan summer traditions.

We spent a lot of time in the car that day, but we were okay with escaping that heat.  We hoped to get more beach time back in Manistee, but with a campfire to get going and the day getting late, we just took the kids to play at the park near the city beach.  Like any five-year-olds, Michael and Sophie find playing on a new playground with a a rocket ship structure as exciting (if not more) than climbing a national treasure or splashing in a Great Lake.  Sometimes that works in our favor.


All of our camping nights ended with campfire dinners (hot dogs, hamburgers, hobo ham dinner), dessert (s'mores, campfire apple pies), and sunsets.  We had a good bedtime routine going where we made one last stop at the bathrooms after the sunset, brushed teeth, and put on pajamas in the tent before reading those library books.  That time in our tent with flashlights, sleeping bags, and chats about our day's adventures was my favorite of this trip.  The kids went and stayed asleep like camping champs.

I was even able to drink my coffee in total silence in the mornings.  The memory of that alone could motivate me to do this again in the future.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Music in the Air

Last night we went to a concert in the park where we often listen to children's performers in the afternoons in the summer.  At night there are fewer sippy cups and more covert margaritas in Jimmy John's cups, but otherwise it's about the same.

The kids enjoyed dancing, eating popcorn, checking out the fire truck and classic cars on display, and eventually wore out.

PicMonkey Collage

July 24

July 24-3


July 24-2

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Fun

Minions came to our drive-in theater, and thankfully by the evening the muggy heat that hung over us during the day on Sunday had eased up.

Some friends made the genius decision to move to a house on a lake and have been kind enough to invite us over to swim.  We went again yesterday.


The kids like to leave the beach area flying like butterflies with beach towel wings.  It's just the cutest.

For an extra special summer dessert last night we made s'mores using Fudge Stripe cookies and others with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  

There's nothing wrong with classic s'mores, but mixing things up a bit was a fun (and super gooey) treat.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Reading

The kids and I have visited our public library at least once a week this summer, mostly to get novels for my rekindled love affair with fiction and picture books to geek the kids up for our vacations and kindergarten.

Today Michael and Sophie were lured in by the computers and played some games.  They never played on a PC before, as far as I know.  They have their tablets and have played our Wii, but using a mouse, clicking the game icons on the desktop, and so on was new for them.  The paint by numbers/letters/sight words on ABC Mouse was their favorite (and mine), and I just might let them on my laptop to do that some more at home.

Summer Reading July 17

We also got a couple more actual books.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bubbles and Chalk

July 16
Outside today we broke out some classics--bubbles and sidewalk chalk.  They never fail.

July 16 BUBBLE
Sophie said she was a wicked witch with her bubble wand, stirring her stew and potions.

July 16 CHALK

Monday, July 13, 2015

Get to the Point

When Mike and I saw the kids' excitement after riding the Barnstormer roller coaster at Magic Kingdom back in February, we determined that we would like to see those giddy smiles again this summer.  The kids and I will be on the west side of the state with my mom in August, so I didn't want to head that way to do Michigan Adventure for this family trip.  At just shy of 42" tall, even the bumper cars and swings at Liberty Fest a few weeks ago were off limits to them, so I also wanted to be sure there would be plenty of kiddie rides wherever we went.

Phone Pictures

With a surprisingly large number of rides for kids 36" tall and up and the newly renovated, 110 year old Hotel Breakers on site, I was lured to book a long weekend at Cedar Point.  Before looking into this trip I had no intention to take the kids there before they were maybe seven or eight since my own memories of the place began around that time.  Those memories also include roller coasters far too big for my five-year-old's.  However, we just got back from three days on the beach, riding kiddie rides (and a few thrill rides), and luxuriating in some brand spankin' new amenities at the hotel.  It was a bit of a splurge for a long weekend, but we packed a lot in, as always.


The four of us drove up early on Saturday and spent the day on the beach. The kids have now had at least their feet in all five Great Lakes!

On Sunday we took advantage of staying on site to get into the park an hour before the general public.  We were also grateful our hotel could serve as a convenient place to warm up, change, and rest in the mid-afternoon after unsuccessfully dodging raindrops for most of the day.  Since we were only steps away from the park, we were able to wait for the rain to let up and get right back out there after dinner.

Even with the near-constant drizzle, we managed to ride everything we wanted (including kiddie sized bumper cars and swings) and had a great time together. With the Kiddie Kingdom, Camp Snoopy, and Planet Snoopy areas to visit, the park had plenty of rides for Michael and Sophie.  Over the course of the day they rode Wilderness Run--the old Junior Gemini, now part of Camp Snoopy--nearly a dozen times, mostly as the only two riders!  The Woodstock Express reminded us all of Barnstormer, and we rode that a couple of times as well.  Thanks to the rainy weather for most the of the day, we practically had the park to ourselves in the evening when the weather was perfect.  

The weather was great again on Monday, our last day of this little getaway.  We packed up our room early and spent a few hours in the hotel's outdoor pools before heading home.  A storm was coming in yet again, so that made it a bit easier to say goodbye to this trip.


I'm not sure why I didn't get many photos of Sophie over this trip.  There was a while when I felt I was getting more of her, so I guess these things work themselves out!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Art in the Park

We headed into downtown Plymouth again today for the Art in the Park art fair.

July 10

The only real purchases were a sundress set for Sophie and her American Girl doll (only $20 for the two) and some headbands.


My mom, Michael, and I went away empty handed.  Two of us were okay with that, but a certain little guy was pretty bummed not to get the $58 stuffed dinosaur he wanted.  Santa, expect to hear about that thing.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Music in the Park

There are a couple of weekly children's concerts in the area that we like to attend during the summer.  Yesterday we went to Music in the Park in Plymouth and heard The Music Lady.  Since changing jobs last fall Mike now works locally, so he came and had lunch with us there.

As we walked downtown from the car to the park, Michael froze on the sidewalk, pointed into a store's doorway and said, "Mama, you have to see this."

Sophie got a look before me and said, "Sunflower!  You can use this for the scavenger hunt!"

So I did.


I bought the kids a couple of sticker coloring books at the dollar store to play with at the graduation party we went to a couple of weeks ago.  They had no interest that day but the books were a hit while we waited for the concert.

Michael colored periodically throughout the concert, at least when he and Sophie weren't dancing or joining the line of kids making a train around the park during railroad songs.  He looked up from his coloring a couple times here to sing.


The kids have been very patient with me taking photographs for this hunt.  I'll be sad when it's over!  With s'mores, lemonade, snow cone, and other treats on the list, Michael and Sophie are sure to make out well as a result.


Monday, July 6, 2015

A Summer Day

Michael and Sophie are taking swim lessons at Lifetime Fitness this summer.  The cost of the family membership was about the same as Mike's Planet Fitness membership plus the cost of monthly lessons for two kids at Goldfish or Aqua Tots.  Between the one month of free lessons for the kids that we got just by joining and the additional month that our Lifetime Bucks covered, it seemed like a no-brainer to go the way that gets us access to an outdoor pool for the summer.  Maybe we'll go back to the Planet Fitness and either Goldfish or Aqua Tots when we have to start legitimately paying for lessons at Liftetime.  That will coincide with the end of summer pool time anyway.  We'll see.  That place is pretty nice.

July 6
Due to the mild weather so far this summer, nights of T-ball, eight mornings of safety town, and various other small adventures, today was the first day that we took advantage of the pool access that we were so looking forward to using.  The kids and I entered the pool around 10:30 and had it pretty much to ourselves for most of the time until we left at noon to go home for lunch.  Since the kids can't swim on their own yet, an hour and a half of pool time was sufficient.  

July 6-2
Again, I'm amazed how much these two have grown in a year.  Last year when we visited this pool on a one week free trial, Michael and Sophie were scared to go into the three foot deep shallow end without Puddle Jumpers, but this year their heads and necks are solidly out of the water when they walk in the pool flat-footed, and they were much more confident on their own.  Both kids practiced swimming with kick boards (reserved for 12 years old and up, but they made an exception--yeah!) and finally enjoyed going underwater a bit.  We really have crossed over to a new land of big-kidness, and it's quite fun.

July 6-3
At home we had lunch, and the kids napped hard.  (We'll have to break that napping habit before kindergarten in the fall, but I'm not rushing it!)  Later in the afternoon we made the most of temps in the mid-eighties and had some sprinkler and sandcastle time.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

July 4, 2015

This morning we went to a July 4th parade.  We have more fun stuff planned for the afternoon and evening, but I have a minute to share some photos.

July 4
July 4-2

July 4-4
I've become quite inspired by the 101 Summer Photo Ideas: Clickin Moms 7th Annual Scavenger Hunt and have been sharing a lot of my 365 photos on Instagram as a result.  I imagine my few followers on there have felt a bit bombarded by my posts over the last few days.  Having details to look for, like the color yellow or a sunhat, has really loosened me up again.  Above you can see red, blue, and polka dots.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Home Bodies

Technically today was the start of a holiday weekend, and we chose to spend it at home.  The kids and I spent most of our time outside, and the weather was warm but not too hot.  Mike worked on a home project.  He replaced our laundry room door so it swings out rather than in--not super exciting but more functional, and he knocked it out beautifully.

Michael and Sophie played in the sandbox, kicked soccer balls, drew pictures at the picnic table, got their own snacks, and did all of that mostly independently.  I played super heroes with them for a while, Mike joined us for hide and seek, and the kids sat beside me on the outdoor love seat often to ask questions, snuggle and rest, or to tell me funny things that happened (a bird sat right next to Sophie before it noticed her building a sandcastle and flew away, for example).

But you know what I did mostly?  I read.  I'm finishing my second book of the summer, and it feels so freakin' good.  This is my sixth summer as a mommy, and the first one where I feel I can sink into a good book the way I must in order to fully enjoy it.  I pass out too quickly when I read at night, especially during the school year, so daytime during summer and holiday breaks has always been treasured reading time for me.  Getting long stretches of time with my kids has all but replaced that reading habit for these 5+ years, but thanks to a sandbox, swings, soccer balls, and the bittersweet miracle of kids just getting bigger, reading is back.

When it was time to go in to make dinner (stress free and from scratch--man, I love summer), I asked the kids to water the plants on the patio since they were looking a little parched today.

Watering Can
Chores are another benefit of that getting bigger thing.

Graduation Party

Last weekend we went to my cousin's daughter's graduation party.  She was born the year I graduated from high school, so there was a wow I'm getting old full circle quality to the event.  There was also a soggy quality as it rained all day.  All day.  That's not typical for Michigan summers where it rains one minute, gets 85 humid degrees the next, and you need socks and a fleece jacket before all is said and done.  Consistent rain has it's perks when you're five, though, like puddle splashing and umbrellas.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Day at the Park

The kids and I spent some time at the park today.  When we were at this park about a week ago, I caught Michael out of the corner of my eye crossing the monkey bars for the first time.  Both kids also jumped fearlessly from one half-buried tractor wheel to the next, a challenge that required hand-holding last year as their legs were just a tad too short to make the leaps solidly on their own.  Parks keep reminding me how much these two are growing.

This also happens to be the park with the Paci Tree, and we visit those decaying suckers every time.

Reading that post from the day we hung the pacies just now made me very grateful that I have kept this blog. There were a lot of details in there that I did not remember like Sophie's love-hate relationship with her sock monkey and the agitating sound of a plastic pacifier hitting the hardwood floor in the middle of the night.  Surely I could have just kept a journal with all of this, but knowing somebody out there could be following our journey has kept me going with this in a way a traditional journal just would not have.  I've probably written something like this in a post before as this isn't the first time putting in a link back to an older post has done this for me!


Bloggers love comments!

If you stop by for a visit, please leave a note. I would love to know who's checking in on us!