The Cottage is the Thing Pt. 1

Summer for Michiganders consists of many small grievances. Mosquitoes, construction zones, humidity and firework season. But for all those hot weather annoyances there is one sweet bit of relief we can all share.  The Cottage.

Being the Great Lakes State is pretty awesome when you think about it. We’re surrounded by 3 incredible bodies of water in our country. And all along the banks of those lakes are beaches. And just beyond the sand there are cottages. Where there is beach and lake front in Michigan a cottage is not far away.

Everyone has their own little piece of ‘Up North’ (what Michiganders call anything 40 minutes north of where they live). Be it a campground they spent their childhood summers at. Or the cabin their great-grandpa built by hand. Some prefer the Michigan side, others head for the big inland lakes like Houghton and Torch. And a few brave and intrepid souls wander all the way up to Superior every summer.

Our family? We go to Huron every summer. We’re a Huron kind of family. Our beach is the pristine and uncrowded stretch in Oscoda. Our beach is the one that the entire country sees in our famous ‘Pure Michigan’ tourism commercials. It’s lovely.

I can’t even remember how many years now we’ve been coming except that my dad never came so it has to be within the past 10 years. And I never remember being there without Michael, so that narrows it further to 8. That’s a lot of memories. And so many more to come.

And it’s only gotten better and more important now that I have kids. To give them this time, in nature, out of the city, with their extended family. It’s such an important tradition to me.

This year we added to the tradition by inviting my inlaws, Jiddo John and Teta Hilda and bro-in-law André to share the Father’s Day weekend with us. And I’m so glad we did. It’s the first time both sides of our family have spent this much time together since our wedding. How lucky are we that they get along and enjoy each other’s company? Everyone had a great time.

Our lovely stretch of Pure Michigan. Isn’t it stunning?

IMG_2553

It was cold. Even cold for Up North. But Cedella could not stay away from the lake.

IMG_2542

Miss Isora discovered a natural affinity for digging. She did so for hours.

IMG_2545

Hours of digging made Biz hungry and exhausted. Breastfeeding on the beach? Win. Win. So glad I have these beautiful photos to remember our breastfeeding relationship.

IMG_2568

And…passed out. The beach is the perfect spot for a nap. Don’t mind André, he’s a beach-posing pro.

IMG_2573

Fun times around the fire circle. My Mom lives for a good camp fire. S’mores and beers and whiskey and wine and laughs and oh yea…fire. What’s not to love? I think my FIL and MIL loved the fire as much as we did. We had some really good laughs and told lots of stories. If it hadn’t have been so damn cold we could have stayed out there all night.

IMG_2524

So when it got too cold outside we packed it in and poured some drinks and started out playing a game called Apples to Apples. Which was all very fine and funny and PG-13. Clearly we needed to step it up and take it to an NC-17. Enter Cards Against Humanity. Officially it’s a game in which a question is asked (black card) and the person with the best answer wins (white cards). It’s totally arbitrary based on the person reading the black cards taste and sense of humor. Though it had the potential to totally offend the old folks they had a blast. In fact my FIL John won the first game and my MIL Hilda won another game!! We laughed so hard we cried. And we got my Mom to say “Motherfucking Sorcerer” (Thank you Kylara for masterminding that one). If you are looking for a good time and every one is over 16, get Cards Against Humanity. You won’t regret it.

IMG_3182

Cold and rainy days require lots of good things to read. And lots of folks to read them to you. Uncle André put in some time reading fairy books with Cedella.

IMG_2526

While Isora did a little light reading catching up on the goings-on in Westeros.

IMG_2529

Beers and walks on the beach. Works for us 😉

IMG_3105

The Grandmas and their wiggling silly Granddaughters.

IMG_2521

Bedtime with Jiddo.

IMG_3110

Thankfully by Sunday it was quite a bit warmer so the beach was the thing. Besides, this kid couldn’t be deterred from the water. See LOVES the lake.

IMG_2555

Jiddo John and Uncle André had a blast flying kites with the girls.

IMG_2608

Shells and tadpoles and a million little creatures captured Dad and Ella’s imaginations.

IMG_2570

Braving the icy cold waters of Lake Huron.

IMG_2580

My sisters chillin’ on the beach.

IMG_2612cropped

The Mansour guys and the Mansour little ladies. A handsome bunch, no?

IMG_2606

Father’s Day lunch was delicious. We made beef and pork kabobs, salad, asparagus and of course lots of delicious watermelon.

IMG_2627

We managed to find a Father’s Day version of the best. Card. Ever. It’s a Hamburger that sings a really obnoxious song. And it makes all of us laugh ever time we play the song. Ella found it at Target. She was so pleased with herself to give it to her Dad.

IMG_2650

The whole gang (minus a sleeping Izzie). All these people I love, that love each other, that love my babies. God, I just really love this picture.

IMG_2659

Have you taken a trip with both sides of your married family? What are your family summer vacation traditions? Are you a Michigander? Which Lake is yours?

Well that was quite a photo bomb…but guess what? There’s a LOT more. Coming up is Part II…our day trips to Dinosaur Gardens & Ocqueoc Falls and other spots in the great Up North.

 

 

 

 

How I Stay Sane: a SAHM Guide

Part of the constant struggle of being a SAHM for me is staying busy. Not that I can’t always find a cobweb that needs sweeping or a dish that needs washing or a sippy cup full of spoiled milk that needs tossing, cause I can.

When Cedella was born and I was all alone with her all day I can remember how much I felt the urge to clean everything, always, non-stop. Then when I was IM’ing with friends a week or so ago (Hi Ashley and Nicole!!) I was reminded that in those days, keeping my child alive, fed and clean was priority one. Keeping the house clean was two. Keeping my husband fed and clean was three. And me? Well…I was probably around number 1001 on the list of priorities.

Over the past three years I have really expanded my social circle in Lansing and am so incredibly happy to say that I have real friends here. Friends to go to movies and awesome new restaurants with, that don’t mind if we talk about kids and husbands all night. Friends that are just as nutty and obsessed with baby carriers as I am. Friends that don’t look at me funny when I’d rather give my girls garlic, lemon and honey than antibiotics when they’re sick. And friends that I can trust the birthing of my babies and my kids lives forever after with.

It’s not easy this whole motherhood thing. But knowing that I have these woman, well that helps so much more than I ever imagined it would.

So with this incredible social circle I am able to keep sane on any given week.

What are my other secrets?

Secret #1: Getting out of the house!!!

It sounds simple. But anyone that has a 3 year old will tell you that getting them dressed and out of the door is a feat in and of itself. But add a second small creature (and their belongings) into the mix? Well you might as well be packing for a trek to the moon. So leaving the house with two may be intimidating and even sound counterproductive. But just the act of getting everyone into the car and heading out for an adventure is enough to clear any bad moods and put smiles and giggles back into the day. Fresh air and some fresh tunes on the stereo = happy family.

Secret#2: Get Involved in Local Groups

I go to about 4 or 5 meetings/playgroups a month. Once a week at least. Counting it up that way seems like a lot, but it’s so worth it. Not only did getting involved in a local mom’s Meetup group help me to meet one of my closest friends, Leslie, it brought Cedella her BFF Anna. So thankful that for the small time I participated in the group I was able to meet Leslie (she gets bloggy with it at Pretending to be a Grownup, go visit her so she’ll write some more :)), and from there Katie. And being involved in both the local LansingBabywearers and Delta-Waverly La Leche League has allowed me to meet and befriend so many awesome mamas like Gwen, Cindy, Kristy, Meghan, Jessie, Zaje, Mia and the aforementioned Nicole and Ashley.  Not to mention our amazing birth center (which sadly closed in October) which brought me so many more life-long friends like Annie, Heather, Molly, Clarice and Audra. Finding all these outstanding ladies to connect with has been a life-saver. Knowing that there’s always someone to vent to or get suggestions from keeps me from feeling like my children are conspiring to kill me. Thanks ladies 😉

Secret#3: Getting dressed

Now I love my yoga pants as much as everyone else, don’t get me wrong. I can be found in them pretty constantly when I’m in the house. But I do not wear them in public. Unless I’m literally going to a yoga class. When I leave the house I get dressed like I would have when I had a job. Granted I wear more jeans than I would have to work, but jeans wash anyway sticky kid handprints better than dress pants. And I wear makeup. Full face, definitely mascara, sometimes lipstick (but usually chapstick). Every time. It makes me feel like a whole person and not only somebody’s Mommy. Though it may be hard to find clothes to accommodate both my mama body and my fashion sense (see RANT here) it’s worth it to find fun clothes that make you feel good about your self. Yes, it has meant buying a bigger size than before I was pregnant. But it’s worth every penny to feel cool and confident and ::gasp:: sexy again. Also, by getting yourself in order you project the image that you are organized and have things all together. That leads me to…

Secret #4: Let the House be Messy

Being all put together and fashionable in public no one will ever know or even care that your house is a total disaster. Because if you can put on mascara before a playdate who cares if your sink is full of dirty dishes, right? But seriously this is one of the biggest things I’ve had to let go over the past 3ish years. Since becoming a SAHM there is such a battle over what my actual role and job is. Am I Chief Child Care Provider only? Or Nanny with a splash of Housekeeper? Some days I feel like I’m an all-out indentured servant. But it’s ok, because after nearly a year of caring for a small child and trying to keep my house immaculate I gave up. Toys are always on the floor, there’s always a laundry mountain in the corner of a bedroom and there are dishes in the sink. And you know what else? My children are clean and smart and loving. They have oodles of time to play and learn and laugh with their mama. And that is really more important than spotless floors, no?

Secret #5: Invite Someone Over

But whenever you’re feeling like the entire cluttered mess is getting out of control and you just can’t take it anymore…invite some friends over to play, or better yet, for dinner. Cause then you have to clean the house. And usually you only have like two hours to do it. I get more done in that way than I ever do when I have a full day with nothing on the schedule. And usually it stays that way for days after. I hit every single room (except our bedroom) and the whole house is wonderful for at least a week. I’m seriously considering weekly dinner parties…

Secret #6: Stop doing things that you’re not getting help with.

Or perhaps my most important tip for household woes. When my husband stopped putting his dirty clothes in the hamper (cause I’m not his mama and refuse to pick his dirty drawls up off the floor two feet away from said hamper) I stopped doing his laundry. One day he had no clean underwear. He was a little pissed. I was more pissed. For the most part he’s pretty good about getting the things in the hamper now. And doing dishes. And every once in a while he surprises me by taking the garbage out before I’ve removed it from the bin and propped it up against the back door. It’s the little things…

Secret #7:  Alone Time/Mom’s Night Out

And my above all gotta-make-time-for-it secret is to get out of the house with only other ladies in tow and have some fun!! It could be dinner and a movie or dinner and drinks or just dinner. Huh. Apparently my girl’s night outs always have something to do with food. Or drinks. Well, let’s be honest, that’s a great place to start. Whatever you do make it a regular thing. I still go to the book club at my old library, driving over an hour in various weather conditions once a month to see my amazing book-loving friends. Not just because I can’t find another book club but because it’s my thing, my regular monthly night to talk to other adults. It is like air to me at this point. Plan these things in advance and just do them. If someone asks you to go do something without your children for heaven’s sake just. say. yes. And at the end of the night, when you’ve had a great time, schedule the next one!

Hope that some of this Mama wisdom is helpful to you. As always take it with a grain of salt and use whatever works for your family. But please, remember, your family only runs well if it’s engine, it’s brain, it’s soul, it’s Mother, is doing well. Take care of yourself and everything else will fall into place. We as mothers and women need to start treating ourselves with respect and loving ourselves. Cause we really do make the world go round.

Love to each and every one of you who reads this.

Photo from one a Ladie’s Night Out last summer. These ladies. They help me stay sane by getting a little crazy. If you know what I mean 😉

 

 

 

 

 

Wordful Wednesday: Go Cedella Go!

The plague has hit our house folks. I have been a nurse and walking milk cow for nearly ten days. To add insult to injury, when I thought I was going to escape this flu’s evil clutches my throat closed up and I got incredibly ill. BOO.

With all the nurturing and care-taking I’ve had barely enough time to think about the blog which makes me feel horribly guilty for not writing my birthday letter to Cedella yet. But sweet thing was sick on Monday, her actual birthday, so I’m thinking about giving her a re-do birthday day when she feels better. And that way I have more time to write something really sweet.

But the good news is that no one got sick until AFTER the big birthday celebration last weekend. And when I say after I mean that the second we got home from the party Cedella was burning up and acting like someone else’s child.

This year we decided to simplify things for ourselves and allow for a few more children to attend so we had the party at Play. a local indoor playspace. If you live in the Lansing area and haven’t checked out Play. you should go. NOW.

Play. is one of our favorite places to go and well…play. I can’t say enough great things about the owner, Kasey, and her super cool business. She works incredibly hard to make sure every detail is perfect, and it shows. Cedella and all her little friends go bananas when they get in there and her party was no exception.

This year when asked what kind of party she wanted to have she said “A Princess Diego party”. Meaning Princesses and Go Diego Go. But being the OCD mama that I am I was not trying to make two separate themes work together. So I asked her to choose. She chose Diego. Cause she’s mildly obsessed.

The only problem is that Diego (Dora’s cousin who rescues animals) has apparently been cancelled. And unlike Dora or Barney or Elmo, all whom have ceased making new shows but continue raking in the merchandising dough, Diego has been cancelled from everywhere. Finding Diego toys and clothes in stores is impossible. A Diego doll that cost $20 last Christmas costs $80 now. I bought thrift store Diego pajamas for Cedella a size too small just so that she could wear them once cause she wanted some so bad. WTF?! Why is Diego no more?

We managed to find more than enough Diego decorations though, my brother-in-law even rustled up a Diego pinata from somewhere in Chicago. And I had a Diego cake made at the local grocery store. And we even had a really great local artist (who just happened to be leaving his kid’s first birthday party when we arrived) to draw a Diego chalk mural for us. So cool…

So by party time (and thanks to my amazing and fast helpers Michael, Mom, Tracey, Kylara, Lucy and MIL Hilda) we were all Diego-ed up.

My sweet Monk got to play with her favorite little ladies…like Juniper

Sophia

her cousin Salem

Olivia & of course Anna.

Even sweet Izzie got to play around. Here she is on the coolest bouncing horsey ever.

And entertaining her Jido and Teta.

After all the crazy playing it was time to cut the cake. And yes, that super sweet Diego cake was made at Meijer. And it was Delicious.

I love this moment. I should have realized right here that she was getting really sick. She was being so sweet and shy and quiet. She leaned into me while we were singing Happy Birthday and said ‘Mama hold me’. My heart swells…

Once we got all the kids hopped up on sugar it was time to open all the gifts. Folks, it was like a baby shower there were so many gifts. But most important was her very own Rescue Pack. Thanks Grandma Linda :)

 

Ella is so incredibly fortunate that her family and friends were so generous. It was like second Christmas. And yes, we’re STILL putting stuff away. There was a lot. These Super Hero guys are her new favorite.

I love my sister’s face in this one. Like she’s contemplating playing with them herself.

Ella couldn’t be bothered to stop eating cake while I opened her gifts for her. Sweet new kicks from her TeTe.

And here we are. Cedella’s proud parents. Look at my handsome husband. I do love him so. He’s given me my two greatest gifts.

These two precious children. Our dear family.

And especially the gift of this child. The child who first made me a mother. Who took me from selfish to selfless. Who became my work and my play. My joy. My pain. My heart, removed from my chest and out there walking around the world. Love doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Happy Birthday my sweet Cedella. I love you to the moon and back.

Hope you are all enjoying your winter, staying healthy and keeping warm. Happy WW to all!!