A Look Back at 2014: Part 2

We’re taking on the second half of 2014 in this post. In case you missed it HERE is the link to my post from yesterday…

In effort to counteract such sadness and to welcome the hope and promise of the year ahead let’s look at some pictures. Cause pictures always make me feel better. And if you don’t already you really should follow me on Instagram @mrseyebrowz. Because I post there way more frequently than here. Also…pictures of Iz sleeping in all manner of weird spots and positions on a regular basis.

JULY – Tracey and me. First we saw The Wailers (yes, Bob Marley’s band) at this year’s Common Ground music festival and then we had the absolute pleasure of watching The Violent Femmes perform the entirety of their first album, first to back. This was an adolescent dream come true for us. We sang along with every single word of every single song. LOVE.
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When we go to Chicago for vacation, we know people. Like our buddies Kennedy and Chase who met us at the Shedd Aquarium for some fun times! Their faces in this picture. I die. IMG_6582
These four minis had an awesome time tearing up the Shedd. IMG_6599
Clearly, Isora was NOT impressed with the crying baby next to us OR the dolphin show. IMG_5433
The coolest thing EVER. We got to pet Stingrays. We loved this park of Shedd. IMG_5453
Such a fun day at the Lincoln Park Zoo with André and Merissa. They showed us a great time in Chicago. IMG_6632
AUGUST – Nothing like having a few friends over to remind us of how awesome our new backyard is. And by a few friends I mean a thousand mosquitoes. They made a meal out of poor Izzie’s face when she spent over two hours playing in the sand box. Clearly it didn’t even phase her. Look at that smile. IMG_6669
That one time when Isora passed out in the car and we brought her into Culver’s and she slept the whole time we ate.
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The Kitty Ear Krew. Merissa bought these Kitty ears for Cedella. And she has rarely taken them off since. Then it became a thing. We wear Kitty ears on Wednesdays. IMG_6841
This is totally MY type of situation. Nah mean?IMG_6857
Me and my girls. Relaxing up north in Tawas having the best ice cream ever. IMG_6858
Up North. On Lake Huron. Fire circle. Grandma Linda’s natural habitat. Love this picture. IMG_5735
At Dinosaur Gardens. Where we always act like complete idiots. I cry with laughter every time I see this. IMG_5819
I’m obsessed with this picture. And this is why I love Lake Huron. It’s wide open beach. Very few people. A whole lotta sand.
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This summer’s trip to Oscoda was just us girls. Memories. Made. IMG_5864
SEPTEMBER – First day of Junior Kindergarten to be precise. The look of pride on her face is just everything.
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Cedella and her absolute BFF Anna. Don’t they suddenly look so old?IMG_6024
Hanging out at the Michigan State Homecoming parade. Go Green!! Go White!! IMG_6065
This is what Izzie does while Ella is at school. Sleeps in weird places. It’s a glamorous life. IMG_7003
This may be my favorite photo of the year. This one Tuesday in September it was super hot and me and my besties Leslie and Nicole and all of our 6 girls piled into the cars and drove out to the beach at Holland State Park for the day. It was SO good. And not long after this picture, like days, me and Nicole found out we were pregnant. And almost a month after this picture Leslie found out she was pregnant. A little bittersweet but still so perfect. I love all of these girls so very much. IMG_7042
OCTOBER – For a birthday gift for me, Tracey and our bro Robbie (all born within 2 weeks of each other in Sept/Oct) I got us tickets to see Neil DeGrasse Tyson speak. We love this man. You know who loves him too? Cedella. She is obsessed with Cosmos and knows his name and was thrilled to join us for this lecture. She even stayed awake for nearly the whole thing. IMG_7164
The Sims Kids (minus 1). We geeked out on this so hard. It was fantastic to be with these two for the night.
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The Coolest Astrophysicist in the Universe. IMG_6072
Mom’s ‘Retirement’ Party. I say ‘retirement’ because she is still working 40 hrs/week. But they threw a lovely party for her at the library and we all came together to celebrate her kind of ‘retiring’.IMG_6179
HALLOWEEN – Padawan Ashoka Tano and Jedi Master Yoda. To say I love their geekiness is an understatement.
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Trick or Treating with Superman and Star Lord on the absolute coldest day of the year. IMG_6309
And the Great Pumpkin Walk with their besties Owl (Mia) and Wolf (Anna). IMG_6285
NOVEMBER – Was. Hard. So very hard. Nicole and Leslie and me. And our bumps. Two days before I lost Miles. This picture is one of my favorites and also the hardest one to look at. 
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We lost Miles the week before Thanksgiving. All of our Canadian cousins drove in to spend a long weekend over Thanksgiving. And though I was absolutely distraught and physically exhausted, family was truly the best medicine for my broken heart. Just look at Ella feeding her sister. They love each other so much. I’m clearly doing something right in that regard. IMG_6356
I just love the relationship these two have. Cedella and her Jiddo John. Always goofing around and playing together. He’s her best buddy.
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Despite how heartbroken in made me to meet these two new little boys in our family, it also brought so much love to my soul to hold them. This is Adam. Cedella is obsessed with him. Look at what a great big cousin she is.
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And with Mila and her new little brother Leo. Cedella also loved Leo. She just loves babies in general. I love these children so much my heart could burst. IMG_6394
DECEMBER – Though I was feeling only slightly human, we had to make Christmas the best ever for our girls. So out to the Christmas tree farm we went. This was our first attempt. There wasn’t a good tree in sight, but Isora had a great nap on my back. Doesn’t she look cozy back there? She woke up and looked around and said “This is the most beautiful place ever. Look at all the Christmas trees!!” Love this kid.

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And the following weekend we made it out to the Peacock Rd Tree Farm. SCORE! Here’s my crazy family getting ready to cut down our beautiful tree. 
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And this one night, after we had the tree all decorated, I was just sitting by myself watching a Christmas favorite when all of a sudden the tree dropped. Like TIMBER in five seconds flat. I didn’t even have enough time to react. And couldn’t get it back up by myself. Enter the Two Drunk Mikes. The figured it out, eventually. It was pretty hilarious to watch. BONUS POINTS if you know what movie I was watching.
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Christmas Cookies with Grandma Becky!! The girls loved every minute. IMG_6578
And finally, Crafts with Santa time at Grandma Linda’s library. The girls have been every single year since they’ve been alive. Except for Cedella puking all over herself on the drive down to Detroit, ruining her fancy dress, and the following stomach bug that all of us (even Grandma and TeTe) suffered, it was SO much fun!
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So other than our 7 Christmas celebrations (that’s a post for another day), this was our year. Looking back on it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Sure we had a lot of heartbreak when we lost Miles but buying a house and another year of watching these amazing girls grow was incredible.

And while I’m not interested in making any actual resolutions for the year, I will say this: 2015…the year for counting my blessings each and every day.

That’s our year. How was your year? Any highlights? Thanks for spending a little time at Babies & Bacon today.

One Afternoon in Detroit

Or ‘What I Want My Kids to Know About Detroit’.

Because the thing is I NEED them to know about Detroit. To feel like Detroit is familiar and comfortable and holds good memories. Because that is what Detroit is to me. Detroit is my home.

And I know, I know, in all technicalities I was born and raised in Oak Park, a small city on just north of Detroit.

But I was raised on 10 Mile. 2 miles north of 8 Mile. And spent a good portion of my life either at Eppert Oil (my Grandparents company in the city), the museums in Midtown, Belle Isle and the East Side. And then as soon as humanly possible (at 21 yrs old) I moved to Hamtramck (the only city inside the city of Detroit, so like the Vatican City to Detroit’s Rome).

I guess what I’m saying is I feel I can claim Detroit for my own. I’m no poseur folks.

And it’s very important to me that my girls have the same fond memories and comfortable feeling in Detroit that I have. I want it to be theirs as much as Lansing is. I want them to know all the cultural and architectural gems. I want them to have a sense of urban connection and street smarts, as well as an appreciation for the city that may look a bit rough and lack a cosmopolitan edge but has more charm and heart than any other city in the country.

So whenever we get a chance to spend a full day roaming the city we do. And we found a really great excuse a couple of months ago to spend an entire day bouncing around and taking our own impromptu kiddo Detroit tour.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, sunny and warm but not muggy hot (Detroiters call anything above 40% humidity ‘muggy’), so we decided to find something outdoors.

First off we had to eat, and while we were thinking of hitting up something in Midtown or the oh-so-chic Corktown, we opted instead to take the kids to Eastern Market. While it wasn’t a market day it was still quite busy with produce and meat vendors accepting deliveries and all the popular eateries around the market busting at the seams.

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We decided on Russell Street Deli, and while it wasn’t the best Deli ever, it was decent and satisfying and fast. Though it made me long for corned beef at Bread Basket Deli or even (gasp!) Grandy’s in Hamtramck. But the girls had fun and as soon as we had full bellies we headed off to our next destination…Belle Isle!!

Perhaps if we hadn’t been so spontaneous in our plans we would have known the island had just hosted the Grand Prix races a day before we arrived on the island to special spots like the point you can see the best view of Detroit AND Canada, the Scott Fountain and the Casino were all inaccessible that day. So we decided to go to the playground, a spot we used to play when we were kids. And though the Super Slide, we spent many a summer day on, was closed for the day, the Playscape area was a vast improvement from what we used to play on when we were kids. Accept for one thing…it was filthy.

Recently, during the bankruptcy and ‘save our city’ process, the State of Michigan park service has taken over Belle Isle under the state parks system. Many were skeptical about this decision but most thought it was a great idea, particularly if state funding was used to get the park clean and maintained. I don’t know what we were expecting when we got to the island, but less filth and more amenities maybe?

While the playground is massive and well visited, it was covered in garbage. Covered. Much of the equipment was damaged and either covered in grass clippings or dead leaves or spilled food and drinks. The swings at this main play area were altogether gone. And while the kids certainly had a good time, and there were plenty of kids there to play, we were disappointed by how shabby it was.  I remember when this playground was new and we would take Kylara to play when she was my girl’s age. It was impressive and cool. Now it’s just thousands of dollars of equipment wasting away under garbage and compost.

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But do you think the kids noticed any of that? Nope. They had a ball. Once we were done playing we drove around the other end of the island for a bit, and headed for our final destination of the day…

The Heidelberg Project.

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If you haven’t heard of Heidelberg and artist Tyree Guyton please click on the link above and check it out. Essentially, one talented modern artist, Tyree, created an art gallery from his neighborhood in a down-on-its-luck east side Detroit neighborhood. He’s usually recognized for the colorful polka dots on abandoned and burned out homes all over the city, but his true masterpieces are the neighborhood homes where he uses found and discarded objects to create 3-D art installations and sculpture that remind us not only of the things we leave behind, but how they can be transformed into something new and interesting and powerful.

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When I was first starting out in the film business I worked on a local feature called ‘Detroit’ and we used Heidelberg St and the street behind it for a week long shoot. I remember talking to Tyree then and how hopeful and encouraged he was by the influx of people and energy in his hood. But now, 14 years later, the neighborhood and Project have been rocked by multiple arson fires, in an attempt to wipe this art from the planet. It is a shame but that’s not how Tyree sees it.

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It is not ‘art’ in a traditional museum sense. It isn’t classical painting. It is modern and raw and disturbing and thought provoking. There is a sense of loss and a sense of wonder but never a lack of visual interest. It always has been art in it’s most uninhibited and transformative state. And now it’s quite literally The Phoenix of Art. Rising from the ashes of those that don’t understand it or don’t care about it’s impact on the neighborhood and the city.

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We were SO fortunate that Tyree was out that day. Just hanging out on ‘Heidelberg TV’ as he called it.

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And I was fortunate enough to talk with him for about 20 minutes about the transformative quality of art. The Magic of art. How all things change and grow and become things we don’t recognize, but that change is life, change is art, art is Magic, life is Magic. I say Magic capitalized because that is how we spoke of it, as something real and tangible and experienced.

I talked about how bringing forth life and watching children grow was Magic, he talked about how watching his life’s work burn and then rebuilding it was Magic. He was not sad y’all, he was not angry at the arsonists. Disappointed? A little. But accepting of the fact that life goes on, terrible shit happens sometimes, and we rebuild. The Magic of life is in the constant forward movement.

The Magic of art is in it’s constant reinvention. And in that way Life = Art and Art = Life and it’s all Magic.

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God I love talking to artists.

The girls were absolutely enthralled by the ‘Heidelberg TV’ and the main house that has recently been recomposed after being burnt to the ground. Seeing toys and objects they recognized. Finding things in hidden corners. It was Magic to them.

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To me Heidelberg is something essential for my kids. As essential as the Detroit Institute of Arts, or the Field Museum in Chicago. Something we must see often. Something I can’t wait to take them back to. It’s important, not only for the city of Detroit, but for our children and future generations to see and imagine what is possible to make from things that we throw away. How things can be transformed. The Magic and interest of everyday objects and discarded things. The Magic of art. Because…

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I couldn’t agree more.

As we walked back to our car, a slow rolling minivan passed us. In years past it might have been a drug dealer or undercover cop. But it was a tour bus. Something called ‘Show Me Detroit’. And while Tracey and I chuckled to ourselves and thought it was completely absurd, particularly seeing as we were on our own sort of tour, it struck me much later. This is the city of Detroit at it’s finest. In the throes of bankruptcy, dwindling population and a lackluster economy but hosting tour groups and with the New York Times forseeing (years ago) that it was the next ‘Like Tribeca back in the day‘ and Fortune magazine calling it the ‘New Brooklyn’. It IS absurd. But that’s what makes Detroit such a fantastic and interesting place to be. And why I will ALWAYS call Detroit home.

So if you had one day in Detroit where would you go? If you’re not from Detroit, what would be on your ‘Must See’ list? Detroiters, any special places I should take the girls on our next day out?

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?

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Beers and walks on the beach. Works for us 😉

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The Grandmas and their wiggling silly Granddaughters.

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Bedtime with Jiddo.

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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.

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

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

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Braving the icy cold waters of Lake Huron.

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My sisters chillin’ on the beach.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.