Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell, CRASH!

I have a two-year-old. His name is Jordan. He's really adorable. He looks like this.

Life as a stay-at-home mom is really easy. I just sit around and eat bon-bons all day.

I decorated the mantel for Christmas. Isn't it pretty?

Jordan thought so too.

Oh my goodness, they killed Frosty!!!!!!!!!!!!

Merry friggin' Christmas.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon When You Take the North "Poll"

Melissa & Doug want you to tell them which of their educational toys you think is the best! Just click on the image below to place your vote in the North "Poll!" You'll Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon** to use at just for voting!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Waste not...

Jordan doesn't really like to color right now but he LOVES to break crayons and peel the paper off them. It can occupy him for hours, and that has actually come in handy, like this summer when I had a garage sale. I put a blanket under a tree in our yard and he happily sat in the shade and peeled and snapped crayons all morning.

We have so many random crayons from restaurants and places like that, that I don't really care if he breaks those. I get a little upset when Logan forgets to put away his "good" crayons, though, and little brother starts in on those, because Logan WILL NOT color with broken crayons.

Anyway, we have all these broken crayons that I keep in a shoebox, because it seems so wasteful to pitch them.

At one point, I wanted the Crayola Crayon Maker, which basically melts your crayons down into new ones. It's THIRTY BUCKS though. Doesn't seem worth it.

So, yesterday I decided to try a little project. I bought a Wilton star-shaped silicone mold (for MUCH less than $30, I might add) and put some of the broken pieces in them.

Then I put them in the oven at 300 degrees for a few. I just kind of kept an eye on them to determine when they were ready to come out.

Half melted.

Then, when they were done, I put them outside for a little while to cool, then tipped the mold upside down and out popped the new crayons, all swirly and pretty.

The star shape is cool, because there are still points, but it's too thick for Jordan to break. It's also easier for a toddler's hands.

Jordan still doesn't like to color. He prefers to stack the stars into towers.

Oh well. At least he's not peeling and breaking them, and all those crayons didn't go to waste!

I'm going to stick one in a sandwich bag in my purse so I'll always have a crayon handy. Just thought I'd share our little crayon-saving tip.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My little writer

We had parent-teacher conferences this week, and Logan's teacher had nothing but good things to say about him. She is so impressed with his reading and writing, which she said is so far ahead of his grade level, she believes he's the smartest child she has ever taught.


Anyway, letters, reading and writing have always been Logan's "thing." From a very, very early age, he was sounding out words and using his chalk to leave graffiti around my kitchen. I used to laugh at finding his name written under the table when he was only two. He was full-on reading at age three. Now, as a first-grader, he can read just about anything, and he LOVES to write stories and books.

Each week, the students in his class are required to do an at-home writing project. It can be just about anything. Logan has written anything from a paragraph about friends to a chapter book about his girlfriends' pets.

This week, in the spirit of Halloween, he decided to write a spooky story. I was laughing so hard I was crying last night as I read this story. I absolutely love it, and I'm going to try to get him to rewrite it in book form with illustrations, so I can cherish it forever. I am dying to see what a "squinty warlock" looks like!

I decided to share his story here. A couple notes... Yes, my child uses ampersands. I don't even know any adults that use them, but Logan has used them since he was four.

Second, I thought it was a riot that he included pronunciation keys for the names he made up for the ghosts.

Third, I have to add a little picture because it's too funny not to share: When he writes a weird name, he draws little squiggles under it, because that's what Word does when he's typing his stories on the computer! Seriously!!!

I typed it up exactly as he wrote it, misspellings and all. I especially liked "Grain Repar" instead of "Grim Reaper." I practically wet my pants when I read it.

I had no idea what this story was going to be about until I read it. The only hint I had was when he asked, "Mom, is a boy witch a warthog?" and I had to tell him it was actually warlock.

So, enjoy!

Ten little ghosts in the haunted house
by Logan Johns

Ten little ghost in the haunted house. Suenly (SOO-ENN-LEE) saw a Vampire Bat & ran out to the woods.

Nine little ghosts in the haunted house. Ellyen (ELL-EE-ENN) saw a wild cat & ran out to the woods.

eight little ghosts in the haunted house. Seilanax (SEE-LANN-ECKS) saw a one eyed freak & ran out to the woods.

Seven little ghosts in the haunted house. Fialiianixxian (FEE-UH-LEE-AN-ICKS-EE-AN) saw Frankenstein & ran out to the woods.

Six little ghosts in the haunted house. Zillialian (ZILL-EE-UH-LEE-ANN) saw a Evil Witch & ran out to the woods.

Five little ghosts in the haunted house. Retreever (RETT-REE-VERR) saw a scelaton & ran out to the woods.

Four little ghosts in the haunted house. Cimpminisan (CHIMP-MINN-UH-SIN) saw a Ghoul & ran out to the woods.

Three little ghosts in a haunted house. Zelonix (ZEE-LON-ICKS) saw the Grain Repar & ran out to the woods.

two little ghost in the haunted house. Riely (RIE-LEE) saw a massive Wizard & ran out to the woods.

One little ghost in the haunted house. Zimix (ZIMM-ICKS) saw a squinty Warlock & ran out to the woods.

Ten little ghosts safe in the woods.

Well done, Logan! I'm proud of you, my son!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mission Point Resort

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated a big anniversary: Ten years married (and 20 together!)

We always said we were going to get back to Maine, where we honeymooned, to celebrate our tenth, but life got in the way and we just weren't able to do it this year. We still wanted to do something special together, though. After some thought, we decided Mackinac Island was a good choice. My parents live in the U.P. so it would be relatively easy for them to meet us at the bridge and take the kids for a weekend, so that's just what we did.

When a lot of people think of staying on Mackinac, they think of the Grand Hotel. We had always wanted to try out the Mission Point Resort, though. A few years ago when we ran the 8-mile Mackinac Island race, we started and finished at the resort, and we took the opportunity to walk through the lobby. It appealed to us and we decided we'd love to stay there sometime.

So, as our tenth approached, I contacted the hotel and asked if they had any special rates available. They hooked us up with a lake-view room with a king-size bed at a good rate and even arranged for ferry tickets for us.

The weekend before we went to Mackinac, the weather was glorious. Warm, sunny, fall colors everywhere. Then the forecast came for our weekend and it was just plain AWFUL! They were calling for rain, rain, rain and CHILLY temps. I started to get discouraged. That's the danger of a mid-October anniversary, though. The weather can be amazing or not-so-great.

Finally it was time to go, so we headed to the island on a chilly, breezy, drizzly day. Right off the boat, we headed to a pub for a pint. NO KIDS! That meant we actually got to sit at the bar! Then we headed to the resort to check in. Our luggage was already there, having been valeted from the boat docks. We got our room keys (REAL keys, not cards!) and headed to our room in the main lodge.

This is a view of the resort from the road along the bluff up above.

The lobby, as I mentioned before, is really cool. My dark photo doesn't do it justice.

According to the Resort website, "The Main Lobby is one of the most distinctive architectural structures on the Island. Nine-ton majestic trusses, converging at a height of 36 feet, resemble a 16-sided tepee. This structure fulfills the Indian prophecy that 'Someday, on the east end of the Island, a great tepee will be erected. All nations will come there and learn about peace.'"

There are a couple sitting areas set up in the lobby, too. We enjoyed a rest by the fire when we came in after a chilly post-dinner walk.

When we first walked into the room, it wasn't really what I expected. Smaller, I guess. However, after some thought, I realized that it was exactly what it should be on Mackinac. It's an island resort, casual for those who don't want to HAVE to dress up, and it's cozy. It was built in the 50s and has that lodgy feel, down to the decor in our room: plaids, photos of elk, a duck painted on the headboard, etc.

Our room had a great view of the lake.

We had a break in the clouds on Saturday, just long enough for a rainbow to peek through, right outside our window. That rainbow was out there for a while, too. Luckily, we had just come back to the room for a short rest before dinner, after a day of hiking, so we were able to see and enjoy the rainbow.

On Sunday morning, the day we were to go home, I woke up early as usual and popped a K-cup into the Keurig coffee machine. It was my first time using one of those things and it was pretty neat (and easy)! I took my cup, put on my coat and hat, and headed outside to watch the sunrise.

The purple pre-dawn light in the courtyard outside our window was amazing. It was soooo peaceful out there without all the daytime touristy hustle and bustle of the island.

These are the stairs down from our courtyard to the main lawn and lakeshore.

I headed to the shoreline and walked along the path, taking in the scenery and the fresh breeze. It was a pretty spectacular morning.

I walked back around to the resort and paused to finish my coffee and admire the beautiful landscaping. Even though summer was gone, the flowers were still blooming. Pardon my tired face!

I walked across the outside of the resort and snapped this photo of the sunrise reflected in the windows of the in-house restaurant, Chianti.

Here's Chianti from the inside. We didn't end up eating there because we were out and about, exploring in town. It's got a great view though, and that same lodgy appeal as the lobby and the rest of the resort, yet it's still elegant.

Despite the rain, we had an absolutely fabulous time celebrating 10 years of marriage at the Mission Point Resort and look forward to heading back there for another stay in the future.

Who knows? Maybe it will be our annual anniversary destination! After all, we didn't have the chance to enjoy a number of the resort's offerings, such as the restaurant, the 18-hole putting course, the bicycle rental, the outdoor pool, the spa and the theater. In addition, there's a lot to do on the island, including tours, hiking trails, biking, watching freighters pass through the Straits of Mackinac, restaurants and bars. The scenery is fantastic, even on rainy days.

Next time you're looking for a Pure Michigan experience, check out the Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Monday, October 3, 2011

While he was out...

My husband just returned from 2 weeks in Germany and Hungary for work. Two weeks is a LONG time to be without Hubby/Daddy!!!

But, I kept busy.

On top of motherhood, school for Logan, Cub Scouts, soccer and play dates, I decided to take on a "While You Were Out" kind of project.

We have lived in this nice big house for a year now, but our bedroom was kind of blah. I called it "vanilla." I have been waiting all my life to have a nice big bedroom and I really wanted to do something nice with it.

In the old house, our room was so tiny that, with our queen bed pushed up against two walls, we could barely squeeze the dressers in there. We couldn't open the drawers all the way. It was tiny.

See the cramped room at the old house?

So, I've wanted to re-do our bedroom for a while, make it OURS, make it pretty, because it's a nice big room with a large east-facing window and a cathedral ceiling. I love the room, but it just had cream walls, cream carpet, cream curtains and the quilt my mom made us ten years ago for a wedding gift. I wanted something new, and I wanted to get rid of the green. Even though it's my favorite color, I've had green in my bedroom since I was in high school.

Anyway, I started browsing at bedspreads and I decided I wanted to do a light purple and brown. At first I thought I was going to keep some green in there but I decided not to.

I found a bedspread I liked. Actually, I went out and bought it pretty much the second Hubby left. I chose a paint color that night too. Then, I decided I wanted a big, ornate mirror over the headboard and I looked around on craigslist and stumbled across an antique mirror that I thought sounded neat. It once hung in the State Theatre in Detroit, and I looooove local and Michigan history. It also wasn't all that far from my house, so I contacted the owner and went to take a look. As soon as I saw it, I wanted it. The frame is carved wood and it has LOVEBIRDS on top of it! Perfect for my bedroom!

I had our neighbor, who has worked as a professional painter, come over to help out with the painting and also hanging the mirror.

I enlarged three photos I took while Hubby and I were hiking on North Manitou and made them sepia toned, then put them in some frames I bought last year because I saw them on clearance and liked them. They've just been collecting dust in our basement but they worked well in the new bedroom!

These are the photos that are in the frames:

I finished it off with a really tall purple vase I found on super clearance, in which I put some twisty twig things I had leftover from doing our mantel arrangements in the living room. I got a new lamp at Target and some purple doily things to go under the lamp and vase. I found some curtains that matched really well and even got purple sheers. Because everything else was new, I splurged on some high thread-count purple sheets too. Ahhhh luxury!

and... VOILA! A much warmer, prettier room!



Once it was done, I loved it but got a little scared because my husband isn't exactly big on surprises... or purple! Logan looked at it and proclaimed it "girly" and said he didn't think Daddy would like it.

Oh dear, what had I done?

The room project took a week from beginning to end, so I had a week to wait until he got home to see it. I was soooo tempted to e-mail him photos but I managed to hold back.

Well, when he got home and walked in, he said it looked "super" and he even complimented the color choices. He said I did a great job and said "I actually like walking into this room now!"

Woo hoo!

So, it turned out well. I can't believe I pulled this off!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


These days, when I open a Chobani yogurt, I am always amazed to think that at one point in time, the mere thought of eating Greek yogurt grossed me out. Something about the texture and thickness just gave me the heebie-jeebies.

Then I tried it.

I forget when, but at some point I decided I wanted to try Greek yogurt for a number of reasons. One, most of them are free of artificial sweeteners. Most non-Greek yogurts are packed full of sucralose and other nasties. Two, it's high in protein.

So I picked up a Chobani and tried it. And loved it.

Now I get about three of them a week (more if they're on sale) and they're MINE. Heaven forbid anyone else in the house touch my Cho! Actually, Logan and Hubby have zero interest in yogurt but when Jordan sees me with a cup o' Cho, he is ON IT. That has prompted me to hide while eating it. Actually, I'm happy when Jordan eats Greek yogurt, I just don't like it when he wants the one I'm eating at the time.

I really look forward to my Chobani!

So, one afternoon last week I grabbed a raspberry Cho out of the fridge and settled down at the table to eat it. My spoon was almost to the yogurt when I noticed it was green and furry. Gross gross gross.

I checked the expiration date, and it didn't expire until the 26th of September, so I snapped a photo of my moldy Cho and posted it on their facebook page. I will be honest, I was hoping they'd offer to replace it.

Well, they did. Immediately. And they followed up, asking for a code off the package so they could investigate the specific line where it was produced. I was thanked and ensured that a replacement would be sent. I was happy.

Then, I got an envelope in the mail yesterday, with a nice hand-written note. It contained not just one replacement coupon for my bad cup, but one for a free 32-ounce container, five for free 6-ounce cups and three 30-cent off coupons. They also threw in some cute magnets and a handy magnetic conversion chart for using Chobani in recipes. (I've seen a number of tasty-looking recipes on blogs and on the Chobani facebook page, so I plan to put that chart to use!)

Anyway, I am not only impressed with the Chobani product, but also with their awesome customer service. Something was wrong and they went above and beyond to make it right. They have a loyal customer in me, for sure.

I just wanted to share this with my readers because good customer service is so rare these days and I appreciate it when I find it.

Thanks Chobani!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My frustrating sit-shoe-ation

I am no Carrie Bradshaw.

I don't really have THAT many pairs of shoes. Especially not cute ones. I have my hiking boots, my trail running shoes (well, 2 pairs), my older running shoes, my new running shoes, my indoor workout shoes (for when I do DVDs or if my feet are bugging me), then I have my Teva sandals, my flip flops, a pair of brown flats, a few pairs of heels that I wore in this wedding or that (and never since), my one standard pair of black heels, some cruddy old flip flops that I use for shower shoes when camping, a couple cruddy pairs of shoes that I slip on when I take the kids outside...

OK, well, it does add up, but still, I don't have anything cute. No Manolos or Louboutins or anything like that. For one thing, I can't afford them. For another thing, I can't wear anything with a heel unless I want to limp for a couple weeks, thanks to plantar fasciitis. Too bad, too. I used to love heels and they do wonders for my stumpy calves.

I'm getting way off point here.

So, I have those shoes. My sons have their shoes and my husband has his (big) ones.

What that means is a big pile of shoes tripping us up every time we come in the house or try to go into the laundry room or whatever.

How the heck do you keep your shoes organized and out of the way?!?!

We have shoe cubbies, shoe racks, shoe boxes... still, we have a pile of shoes. I pick it up. A half hour later, the pile is back.

What? Do they all crawl out and pile up when we're not looking?

Here is my rack of "dressier" shoes in my closet (well, and my old ratty but super comfy pair of mooseskin moccasins!)

The other rack of random shoes in our closet.

By the garage door where we usually come in is another cubby and also a box for our hiking boots, because they're big and don't fit in cubbies.

The bench/shoe rack and a typical day's shoe pile (which has been shoved to the side).

I am open to suggestions as to how we should deal with this super annoying sit-shoe-ation. How on Earth do you organize all your family's shoes and keep them that way?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Can't win 'em all

Right before school started, we decided to take the boys on one more backpacking and camping trip. After all, Hubby had bought me a 4-person backpacking tent for my birthday in June and we'd not had the chance to try it out yet.

So, we chose to hike the Platte Plains. We picked this spot because it's in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area, which we love, and also because there is a spot you can park that makes it only a short 1.5-mile hike to the White Pine Campground, which is good when you're toting a two-year-old and when your six-year-old is hiking with you (and carrying a pack) and when poor Hubby has to carry basically ALL the gear because you have the kid on your back. Also, because it has relatively easy beach access. It's only about a third of a mile from the campground to the beach, though it's a hilly, sandy third of a mile!

Anyway, we drove the four or so hours up and started out on our hike on the same day, so when we got there, we were just tired of being in the car. It was pretty hot out, too.

As we started the hike, I decided to snap a photo of myself carrying Jordan.

But the sun got in my eyes. Photo fail.

This one's a little better.

Note the white styrofoam container with the leftovers from Big Boy, where we stopped on the way up. There was one huge chicken strip and half a grilled cheese sandwich. About a quarter mile in, the boys ate them, leaving me with a stupid container I'd really rather have left behind. Oh well. Pack it in, pack it out.

We got to the campground and set up camp in the same spot we camped when Logan was two. We found this gnarled old tree where I had photographed Logan four years ago. It's a cool tree. I put the kids in it. Jordan was scared. I didn't blame him. They were around five feet off the ground.

Then we headed to the beach because we didn't pack in any water and we were thirsty. When we hike, we dip a bag of water out of Lake Michigan and use a filter on the beach to fill our bottles.

But Lake Michigan had a surprise for us. A rather large growth of Cladophora algae.

If you really care, you can read more about it here but basically it's a naturally-occurring and non-dangerous algae that grows in the lake. Increased water clarity, possibly due to the invasive zebra mussels, and higher levels of phosphorus, possibly due to fertilizer runoff and other human idiocy, are two things that might be to blame for the unusually large amounts.

Anyway, it's pretty ugly and gross when you're used to clear, sugar sand beaches, but we found that if you can get to a spot where the beach forms a little point, the algae isn't so thick, and also, once you get past the first few feet, the water is nice and clear again, as long as it isn't too choppy.

So, we were able to filter some water and swim and play a little.

Hiking with a 25-pound kid plus probably another 15 pounds of pack and gear on your back, on sand, isn't easy. Just sayin'. I was pretty sweaty here.

And this is my super sexy summer style. An old ratty mom swimsuit, with hiking socks and boots. Aww yeah.

So we went back to camp and set about making dinner. Somewhere near the end of the mac n' cheese cooking, the camp stove just quit working. The food was edible, though. Of course, Jordan knocked his bowl off the log into the dirt. Didn't matter. He wasn't eating it anyway. The kids were pretty crabby. OK, Hubby and I were too. I don't know. We were just tired and... something. It was just one of those vacations where no one was in the best mood for some reason.

Bedtime came. The tent had plenty of room, but Jordan's still too little to carry anything or even hike in on his own so we were unable to bring any kind of sleeping pad for him. I was going to share my bed. Sounds nice, huh? Snuggle time with my baby? Uh, no. First, he sleeps SIDEWAYS.

Assuming the position

Second, he sprouts about a thousand extra feet when he sleeps. Basically, when Jordan sleeps with you, you don't sleep.

And I didn't.


Since it was, you know, the middle of the night and all, I couldn't exactly photograph it, so here is my amazing rendition using my computer's paint program. (A program, I might add, that Logan actually came home from kindergarten and taught me how to use. Yeah. A five-year-old.)

So, I laid awake. After an hour or so, I heard thunder. Then I saw lightning. I listened to it get closer and then I woke Hubby so we could "batten down the hatches" and pull the stuff in from outside.

A little while later, the storm came. Of course, I was awake for it. I honestly saw every hour that night.

Logan woke up in the morning and wanted to get dressed and go outside right away. He did, exploring some trails behind the tent, and then I heard him say he got stung. Sure enough, he had a couple stings swelling up on him. I looked where he said he'd been and found a ground nest of yellow jackets.

Thank goodness he's not allergic! He handled it well, no tears, tough kid.

Here's Joe, chilling on a stump, pickin' his nose.

I have a photo of Logan at the same age in the same outfit sitting on the same stump. Unfortunately, I don't have a digital version to share. :(

We managed to get the stove lit and had some oatmeal for breakfast and I had a decent headache going on. We needed more water. It was kind of hard, having just our water bottles and having to hike to and from the lake to get it. We couldn't carry a whole lot back to camp, and I knew I hadn't been drinking nearly enough. This would come back to bite me later in a big way.

We went to the beach, and it was soooo windy, it was sandblasting us. The kids were crying. The algae was all mixed up. Hubby had to go way out to get some water in the bag and filtering it was a real chore with the sand blowing around so hard. We got some, and I drank a whole 32 ounce bottle to try to help my dehydration headache. Wasn't enough, though.

To the west, some really threatening clouds were blowing up really fast. The combination of another storm coming, the wind making the beach no fun, the wonky stove, the bee stings and the prospect of spending the whole day in the tent with cranky kids made us hurry back to camp, pack up and head for the hills. It was thundering over our heads for the hike back to the car, and toward the end, the lightning started, too. Just as we got to the road, it started raining. The kids and I parked on a log and Hubby ran ahead to get the car. Quite a feat with the huge pack he was wearing!!!

We headed to Traverse City and spent the next few days at the Grand Beach and Sugar Beach resort hotels.

The "fun" didn't end when we got there. My headache escalated, as I'd feared it would, into one of my infamous dehydration migraines. It's the only time I get migraines, and it's brutal. I can not handle light, the pain is amazing and I know at some point I'm going to vomit. It's the process. I chug a bunch of water with some ibuprofen, lay down for a few, the go throw up violently until I think my eyeballs are going to explode, drink some more water and lay down, and then it magically goes away. It's the exact same scenario every time. It's happened about four times in my life, almost always on vacation, when I forget to drink enough. Hubby was great and took the boys to the pool while I barfed my brains out, and after a while, I felt fine and went to join them. I was SO GRATEFUL that it hadn't happened in the backcountry. That would have been really bad.

Also, the boys were still being stinkers. Jordan even shattered a hotel lamp. An accident, but still...

But whatever, you can't win them all. We still did a few fun things on the trip. I'll probably blog about them at some point. For now, there you go. Even people who really love backpacking with kids like we do can have a bad trip sometimes.