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?


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


Beers and walks on the beach. Works for us 😉


The Grandmas and their wiggling silly Granddaughters.


Bedtime with Jiddo.


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.


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


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


Braving the icy cold waters of Lake Huron.


My sisters chillin’ on the beach.


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


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


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.


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.


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.





Wordful Wednesday: The Doctor is In

Part of our attempts at Preschool at Home is to work on some imaginative play and following Cedella’s interests.

Well lately? She’s been interested in all things ‘Doctor’ related. Every time we go to Anna’s house to play she finds the Doctor set and drags it around the house.

Somewhere in our house she found a stethoscope and worn it around her neck all day. So I gathered some bits and pieces of Doctor gear around our house and I built her a little kit and set up a Doctor’s appointment for her Baby Doll. And yes, this doll is called Baby Doll.

I set up all her Doctor gear: glasses, stethoscope, thermometer and script pad. And her new computer. Because, as she reminded me, all Doctors have computers. Which is so very very true.

But really, she just wanted to include her computer in this game. This computer is the coolest thing she’s ever seen. And she tap tap taps away, just like her Mom. She may have officially gone over to the Tech Side of things. Thanks Grandma Becky!

When Baby Doll was ready she listened to her heart.

And took her blood pressure. Which she insisted that she was different even though she did the same thing.

And then she had to type everything into her computer.

When she was done taking her notes she wrote Baby Doll a prescription for a nap. Seriously. She said Baby Doll needed to rest so she could feel better. Smart kid. Wish she would follow her own advice sometimes.

It was so much fun to watch her imagine her way through this ‘appointment’. She created problems and talked through them. When she was playing with the computer she kept telling me to stop taking pictures so she could ‘do work’. I love that she wants to ‘do work’. And when she finally prescribed Baby Doll some rest, Cedella gently tucked the doll into her own bed, kissed the dolly forehead and tell her everything would be alright.

So it was no surprise that a few days later when we visited her BFF Anna that once again the Doctor kit came out. Only this time? It was Princess Doctor. And it was FABULOUS.

Anna said she had a tummy ache, so Doctor Cedella listened to her stomach to hear what was wrong.

Then she gave Anna a shot to make her feel better.

I think they both enjoyed it, huh?

Have you ever stopped to just watch your kids play? I say that because I never really had. Not without interfering in some way. But when she was playing Doctor by herself, Izzie was sleeping and I just sat back and took an occasional picture and watched her.

Slowing down for a moment and just really watching her imagine and play was pretty incredible.

Everything is so new and fresh and unique to her. Seeing things for the first time through her eyes is amazing.

To us grown-ups playing Doctor means to do simple tasks like checking your heart, giving shots or typing notes on a computer. (*Or something dirty. But please, we’re talking about little kids here. Let’s keep our minds out of the gutter.)

But for her it meant more than that. It meant taking care of Baby Doll, and making sure Baby Doll knew everything was ok.

My girl has the most unbelievable sense of compassionate and empathy.

Whenever another child cries or gets hurt she becomes very quiet and focuses on  figuring out what went wrong and how she can help them. And while I will gladly take some credit for teaching her to care for others, her intense connection to making others feel better is all her own.

Maybe Monk will grow up to be a Doctor. Maybe she’ll be an Artist. Or even the President. That is not important to me. What I hope is that she will grow up to be a kind, smart, confident and compassionate person.

And I think she is already on that path.

How do you instill the values of compassion, kindness and caring in your children? How do you use imaginative play in your house?

Happy Wordless/Wordful Wednesday to you all!!



How to Get Things Done

My little girl will be six weeks old this Thursday.  Damn!  That was fast!  Somehow it’s taken this long for me to come to terms with one of the old bits of advice that every pregnancy book, midwife, nurse, doctor and friend has given.  I often lumped this piece of advice in with things like “learn to sleep when the baby sleeps”, finding these little pearls of wisdom annoying as hell, I mean, shouldn’t I sleep at night when I’m tired?  Yet over the past week I’ve succumbed to the line “if anyone offers to watch the baby so you can get stuff done just say YES”.

Moving to Lansing (my husband’s hometown) from Detroit (my hometown) in September was the hardest move I’ve ever had to make.  Was it just the pregnant hormones and the impending birth of my first child that made me yearn for the familiar potholed streets of Detroit?  I suppose it was the hormones but more importantly it was the fact that I was months away from having my first child and I was going to be nearly 80 miles away from my mother.  

The same mother that I forgot to call until three days into my study abroad trip to Paris.  The same mother I didn’t so much as wave goodbye to when she dropped me off at camp.  But this is also the same mother that I have been working with everyday for the past seven years at the Library.  To say we’ve gotten closer over the past seven years doesn’t even begin to describe our relationship.  She is one of my best friends and closest confidants.  I even spent two nights a week having sleep-overs with her while I was still commuting the hour and half to the Library from Lansing.  The older I get the more I cherish her company and appreciate her advice.  So how in the world could I have a child and be without my mother around the corner (or across the room) from me at all times?    

I suppose the answer lies in the fact that I have not one but two mother-in-laws in Lansing.  Michael’s mother Becky (MIL #1) decided to move back to Lansing after we discovered we were pregnant.  And Michael’s step-mother Hilda (MIL #2) lives in East Lansing, close to the family business.  Throughout my relationship with Michael they have been so welcoming and generous to me.  MIL #2 threw a wedding shower for me that true to her personality was ultra-extravagant and chic.  MIL #1 has always welcomed me into her home like her own daughter, we even made an entire Thanksgiving meal together a couple years ago when she lived in S. Carolina.  However generous and wonderful these two ladies have been to me though, neither is my mother.

So after having Cedella six weeks ago, my mother came out to visit but she didn’t stay a week like I dreamed she might.  She stayed for one day.  One.  Day.  It was as if she was giving me all the space I needed to figure things out on my own, just like she always had when I was growing up.  But in those first few sleepless nights when my MIL’s kept asking to come over or if I needed help, all I wanted was my mother’s help.

Whether she knew it or not (though I don’t think my mother ever does anything accidentally) she did what was best for me.  She left me alone to figure it out, trusting that I could, and knowing that if I couldn’t she really wasn’t that far away after all.  And more so, knowing that there were two perfectly capable ladies practically on my doorstep waiting to help.

After the first two weeks I figured there is a way to do laundry, cook dinner, mop the floors and do the dishes with a newborn.  Several ways actually.  What I have been doing is probably what most of the moms that may read this do – clean while she sleeps.  Which is great if you’re organized or don’t have a lot to get done, or are disciplined enough to stay focused on one task at a time.  But I’m a multi-tasker.  I constantly have about three things going on at once.  So to get one thing fully finished while Cedella sleeps is a challenge.  The newest strategy is to slip Cedella into the baby sling while I do everything.  Now this is fabulous because I get things done, it goes along with our attachment parenting approach and I get a workout from the extra weight I’m carrying with me.  But this has its challenges too.  I’m not confident enough with the sling yet to go hands-free.  Hell, I don’t even think I’ve got her in there right most of the time!  So everything I do has to be one-handed, which is quite tricky, especially in the kitchen or on the keyboard.  So unless I miraculously get something done while the baby is sleeping, everything is pretty half-assed around here.

This is where my MIL’s come in.  Last week MIL #1 came over to visit and since she was just holding a sleeping Cedella and insisting I just go about my normal business, I decided to work on addressing my thank you cards (from my baby shower which was nearly three months ago, tacky, I know, but at least I’m getting to them).  It was great!  I got every single envelope addressed, and MIL #1 got to hold her grandchild, everyone was happy!

Today my MIL #2 came over on her way home from work.  She just sort of popped in and I was right in the middle of cleaning the neon orange poop off of the baby’s entire back (talk about a blow out!).  Luckily I got the baby changed and handed her off to Teta (grandma in Lebanese arabic), so I could clean the disastrous changing table area.  While I was at it I cleaned the rest of the nursery, straightened the bathroom, threw in a load of laundry and put all the dishes in the dish washer.  This was in the space of 45 minutes!  What?  That was 45 minutes well spent!  If I had those 45 minutes every single day my house might be spotless.  Ok, no it wouldn’t, but it would be cleaner.  That would leave the rest of the day to play with Cedella, eat bon bons, watch my stories, buy baby clothes online and read blogs.

Hey, it took me six long weeks to realize that They were right.  If someone offers to take the baby so you can get some shit done – just say yes (when you’re ready of course)!  Needless to say when MIL #2 asked if I would like her to come over tomorrow, I said yes.

P.S. Despite what They say I never did get into sleeping when the baby slept.  I mean, who can sleep all day and then not at night?  Sorry but my internal clock just does not work that way!

Who wants to sleep when you can stare at this cuteness?