October 20, 2017

Take the Family to the Hyatt Place Ann Arbor

Last weekend my family was hosted overnight at the new Hyatt Place Ann Arbor (223 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48108). I have got to say, it is a lovely hotel. I have already told my best friend where she should stay on her next trip! If you have the need, you too should have your family stay at Ann Arbor's newest hotel!


Upon walking into the lobby we knew we were someplace that we would like to come back to. The lobby was open yet quaint and inviting at the same time. The kids wanted to hang out to watch TV or sit at the dining bar. They even commented about reading a book in the nook next to registration.

I had to laugh though, because the first words out of my daughters mouth was, "Mom the lobby smells good." And it did. We called it the "new car smell" of hotels.


When we got to our room the kids were thrilled by the view and the modern, clean lines of everything. You would have thought they had never seen a bathroom before too as they were even excited about that.

I loved the room layout and how bright the room was. The Michigan decor was fun too. I would love to find out where the pillows came from!

The kids were not sure about sleeping on the pull out couch but in the end said they had a super comfortable night! My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the King size bed, which is much bigger than ours at home. I always rate a hotel on the comfort of the bed and pillows and this one was perfect!

Since it was a quiet weekend (i.e. not a home football weekend) we seemed to be one of the few people in the hotel. I saw many people the next morning, so I know that we were not alone, but it was so quiet and enjoyable. When I took the kids to the pool, we had our own private swim time!

I especially appreciated not needing to leave the hotel for dining after swimming too. The food was good, and the staff was even better.


My daughter and I had to head out early the next morning but not before breakfast. I liked the variety of offerings and my daughter easily found something (or several somethings) that she liked too. My husband and son also commented about the free breakfast. There was a variety of cold and hot foods, juices and of course coffee.


In all, my family had an exceptional experience at the Hyatt Place Ann Arbor and have already recommended it to several friends. There are several times throughout the year when a group of neighbors chooses a local hotel to stay and swim at, and this one was recommended for our next staycation. Thank you Hyatt Place Ann Arbor!






October 19, 2017

October is National Pizza Month

To celebrate National Pizza Month, Cottage Inn Pizza sent my family two yummy pizza's. Doesn't it look good? It was! We love pizza, especially the kids, and while it was not on my current diet, I did indulge. Thank you Cottage Inn!








October 3, 2017

Fall Fun Fair and Wild West Fest

On Saturday, October 7th & 14th from 10:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. families can enjoy the Fall Fun Fair at Northfolk Farms and Outback. Experience ​a hayride to the Native American village, western games, horse and pony rides and an exciting exotic animal petting farm. Feed fish in the pond, ride the train eat donuts or try your hand at a sling shot shooting apples into an open field.

​No reservations are needed, payment can be made at the gate. The cost is ​$15.00/child and $4.00/adult but be sure to bring your quarters for the feed machines. With admission, kids will get a free pie pumpkin and decorations.

Free Event: Campfire Fun at the Leslie Science & Nature Center

I am planning on taking my children to this fun event, I mean who wouldn't want to? It's free, sounds fun AND is educational. It would make the perfect way for a family to end their weekend. One Sunday each month from 6:30-8:00 p.m., the Leslie Science & Nature Center is hosting a campfire /story session. You bring the chairs, blankets and roasting sticks (maybe some hot cocoa and fixings for s'mores too) and they'll provide the music, entertainment and marshmallows! 

The Fireside Fun program is FREE and designed for all ages, just come out, bring the necessities and enjoy the night. I'm planning on taking my Cub Scout den and my Daisy Troop too! The dates of this fantastic program are:



  • Sunday, October 15
  • Sunday, November 19

  • October 1, 2017

    Fall Color Hikes

    Fall is the perfect time to get outdoors. The weather is cool and crisp and the colors are bold and beautiful. To experience fall in it's full glory though, why not consider taking a fall color hike? The Ann Arbor Mom blog has pulled together a couple options for fall color hikes too.

    On October 22, at 2:00 p.m. at Scio Woods Preserve, spend the afternoon hiking with a naturalist led program enjoying the beautiful changing colors while hiking through beech maple forests. For more information, contact (734) 971-6337 ext 330 or boldak@ewashtenaw.org.

    The annual Fall Color Hike, presented by the Potawatomi Trail Committee is another excellent way to see Michigan's color in all of it's glory. The 5-mile hike is perfect for families to enjoy and costs just $5/person (cash, check or credit card) and happens this year on October 14 and 15. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. and ends at 2:00 p.m. although hikers can stay on the trail until 4:00 p.m. To participate, hikers will begin and end at Camp Munhacke (20120 Bartell Rd. Gregory).

    My family has hiked the Potawatomi Trail several times, even when my daughter was as young as 4! It's a good hike and very well marked. Typically there are many that you will encounter along the way, so this is a perfect event for novice hikers.

    When you head out for your fall hike, be sure to take a lightweight pack with snacks, water and your camera!



    Ann Arbor Halloween Events, Activities and Information

    I don't know if it's my children's incessant begging about Halloween events that we'll do or what they want to be, if it's a result of seeing all of the Halloween candy and decorations or if it's because I just sent off my latest column to the Ann Arbor Family Press but it's probably a good time to post a list of all of the Ann Arbor Halloween events families can plan!

    Find and information on Halloween events, activities, haunts and more with the Ann Arbor Mom - Find What you can do with kids, toddlers and teens in and around Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County!

    This list of Halloween events will be updated as events come onto my radar...

    October All Month:

    Week of October 1:

    • EMU Fall Concert Symphony Orchestra Concert at Pease Auditorium - October 6, 7:30 p.m.


    Week of October 7:
    Week of October 14:
    Week of October 21:
    • Tots Halloween at Lake St. Clair Nature Center - October 21, 1:00 p.m.
    • AADL Mallets Creek Craft: Bubbling Boo Bombs! - October 21, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
    • Boo!! The History of Halloween at lake Erie Marshlands Museum - October 22, 2:00 p.m.
    • Michael's Kids Club Vampirina® Friendship Bracelets $2.00 - October 21, 10:00 a.m. - noon
    • Animal Haunts - Northern Neighbors at Leslie Science & Nature Center - October 21, 6:00-8:00 p.m. 
    • Halloween Costume Swap at AADL Downtown - October 22, 3:00-4:30 p.m.
    Friday, October 27:
    • Halloween Downtown/Ypsi Glow at YDL-Michigan Library Plaza - 5:30-9:00 p.m.
    • Free Halloween concert at Towsley Auditorium - 7:30 p.m.
    Saturday, October 28:
    • Trick-or-Treat at the Farm at the Wolcott Mill Farm Center - 6:00-9:00 p.m.
    • Michael's Kids Club Vampirina® Treat Bags $2.00 - 10:00 a.m. - noon
    • Sugar Skulls and Jolly Rancher Roses at YDL-Superior - 2:00-3:00 p.m.
    • Halloween at the A2 Market 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
    • Haunted Woods at Camp Munhacke - October 28, 5:00-8:00 p.m.
    • Washtenaw County Parks Halloween Bash  - 6:30-8:30 p.m.


    Sunday, October 29:
    Monday, October 30:
    • Halloween at Ann Arbor Farmers Market - 4:00-8:00 p.m.
    Tuesday, October 31:
    • Halloween Party at the Ann Arbor District Library (Downtown) 10:00-10:30 a.m. and 11:30-noon.

    To add events to the Halloween event list, please contact me at tmayrend at gmail dot com or comment below.





    Sources include: AnnArbor.com, individual websites, previous posts and Google.

    September 29, 2017

    Ann Arbor Halloween Costume Swap

    Do you have old costumes your kids have outgrown? Perhaps your children don't enjoy hand-me-downs and want to see what else they could wear. If either of these scenarios appeal to you, then consider participating in the Halloween Costume SWAP at the Ann Arbor District Library.

    From October 1-22, drop off your gently used, clean Halloween costumes to any Ann Arbor library branch. Then on October 22, come and pick out a new costume from our collection at the Halloween Costume Swap. Save money, clear your closet, and pick out something exciting and snazzy for the year. Costumes for all ages and sizes are accepted!

    September 25, 2017

    Pioneer Days at the Waterloo Farm Museum

    On Sunday, October 8, noon-5:00 p.m. at the Waterloo Farm Museum (13493 Waterloo Munith Rd, Waterloo, MI) families can celebrate late 19th century farm life! This event includes tours of the Farm Museum and Dewey School, live music, and demonstrations of crafts, trades, and traditional cooking methods. Admission to the Waterloo Farm Museum grounds for this event is $5 for adults and $2 for children aged 5-12, free admission is granted for children under 5 and members of the Waterloo Area Historical Society.

    Now in its fifth decade, Pioneer Day at the Waterloo Farm Museum is the premier event on the Waterloo Area Historical Society's calendar. A visit to the Farm Museum and tour includes a complex of farm buildings including the restored ten-room Farmhouse dating from 1855. In the Farmhouse kitchen you will be greeted by the delicious smells of Sunday dinner being readied for the dining room table. A docent in every room will be your guide as you tour the house set with utensils, furniture, clothing, and other household items of the time.

    I know my kids especially enjoy the demonstrations of butter making in the Spring House, hearth cooking in the Log House, brick-oven baking in the Bake House, and blacksmithing in the workshop.

    Be sure to head out this weekend for this wonderful educational opportunity!



    Historic Tours of Parker Mill

    My daughter watching with wonder how the
    Parker Mill grist mill works. Take your family
    on a free tour this October!
    Sundays throughout October (Oct. 1, 8, 15 and 22) from 1:00-5:00 p.m. families can get a free tour of the Parker Grist Mill (4650 Geddes Rd, Ann Arbor). Parker Mill is one of a few remaining pioneer grist mills still operational in southeastern Michigan.  Come and learn how the Parker family used water power to grind corn and wheat, turn a lathe and run other machines in their mill.  Your family can stop by anytime to visit, but a more formal detailed tour will begin at 3:00 for interested visitors.

    My children have been there many times. In fact when we stopped by the other day after making our cider, they knew so much that they could almost lead the tour themselves. Oddly enough they continue to enjoy the wonders of watching the grist mill operate!

    Bring along your camera too for photo ops. Parker Mill is one of the nicest natural places to take family photos too!!!


    September 1, 2017

    Cider Mills, Apple Orchards and Pumpkin Patches in Washtenaw County

    The unseasonably cool weather this week has got me thinking...

    Next week school is back in session, football season is just around the corner, the days are getting shorter and the nights have begun to cool ever so slightly. These subtle changes indicate that it's time for cider, donuts, and visiting area apple orchards! Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, and visiting the many great apple orchards and cider mills is the highlight of the season. In the interest of shopping locally however, I have compiled a list of cider mills, pumpkin patches and apple orchards in Washtenaw County that I have visited and like to visit. Be sure to add additional locations in the comments below!

    Belleville


    DeBuck's Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch (50240 Martz Rd., Belleville, MI 48111): Enjoy the kids are as well as go carts, hay slide, a pumpkin patch, and corn maze highlighting Frozen.
    (734) 260-0334

    2 The Pumpkin Factory (48651 Harris Rd., Belleville MI 48111)  
    Haunted hayride, a country store, pumpkins a playground for the kids, farm animals, children's maze, straw jump, the free little haunted house, pony rides on weekends and a corn maze. (734)461-2763    

    Dexter

    3 Berry Hill Farm (12835 N. Territorial Rd., Dexter MI 48130): Buy pumpkins or patch-pick in the field. Also find honey from hives on the farm. Typically open August through October. Parking and fall scenery are free. From the owner of Berry Hill Farm (Dexter).
    734-475-1516

    The Blast Corn Maze (6175 Daly Rd., Dexter MI 48130): Kids pumpkin patch field, corn maze, hay bale maze, wagon rides, snacks and refreshment stand. Restrooms, a picnic area, and farm animals are also available. Open September through October. Cost: $5+ Kids under 4 free. Hayrides are $3/ride.
    734-845-7127

    5 Dexter Cider Mill (3685 Central St., Dexter MI 48130): The Dexter Cider Mill is the oldest operating cider mill in Michigan. Families can find natural cider, fresh apples, doughnuts, caramel apples and bakery goods in addition to seasonally available locally grown vegetables and apple products. Families can also enjoy slushies, and popcorn. Open mid-August. Cost: Admission and parking are free.
    734-426-8531

    6 Lesser Farms and Orchard (12651 Island Lake Rd., Dexter MI 48130): Offering families plums, apples, cider, homemade jams and jellies, beeswax candles, honey, soaps and pumpkins. Open year round, cider and apples are available in the fall. Free parking.
    734 426-0606


    Manchester

    7 Alber Orchard & Cider Mill plus corn maze (13011 Bethel Church Rd., Manchester MI 48158): Families enjoy a family owned orchard that has been in business since 1890. View an old fashioned cider press, pick pumpkins, enjoy the fresh cider, wander the corn maze or take a hay ride. Open Labor day through November 7. School tours are $5.00 per child or parent, corn maze admission $5+. Many free events at the orchard throughout the season.
    734-428-9310

    Milan

    Wasem Fruit Farm (6580 Judd Rd., Milan MI 48160): Families will find apple cider, donuts, pumpkins, squash, plums and seasonal fruits and veggies with u-pick raspberries. Open September through early November. Call for specifics. Parking is free. No u-pick apples for 2012.
    734-482-2342

    9 Talladay Farms (6270 Judd Rd., Milan MI 48160): Find several corn mazes, a straw bale maze for kids and bonfire firepits. Located 1/4 mile from Wasem's Apple Orchard. Open September 16. Cost $1. 734-439-2313

    Northville

    10 Obstbaum Orchards and Cider Mill (9252 Currie Rd., Northville MI 48167): Take the family for u-Pick apples and pumpkins. Open September through late October. Free parking.
    248-349-5569

    11 Three Cedars Farm (7897 6 Mile Rd., Northville MI 48167): Find a u-pick pumpkin patch, a variety of gathered pumpkins, a corn maze, tractor-pulled hay rides, produce, a gift shop, snacks and a refreshment stand with nearby picnic area and farm animals. Free parking.
    248-437-8200

    Plymouth

    12 Donahee Farms (6055 Tower Rd., Plymouth MI 48170): Three generations of farmers offering families u-pick pumpkins and a straw maze. Open seasonally. Free parking.
    734-459-0655

    13 Plymouth Orchards & Cider Mill (10685 Warren Rd., Plymouth MI 48170): Pick a pumpkin or purchase and already picked one or take a leisurely wagon ride through the orchard - Lots to taste, see and do. Enjoy fresh donuts and apple cider while visiting the farm animals. Open August 27 to November 6. Free parking, wagon rides are $2+, children 3 and under are free.
    734-455-2290

    Saline

    14 Lutz Orchard (11030 Macon Rd., Saline MI 48176): Families will enjoy fresh picked apples, produce, and pumpkins. Children will enjoy seeing the animals on a real working farm. Closed on Thursdays. Open seasonally September through October. Free parking.
    734-429-5145

    15 Coleman's Corn Maze (12758 Jordan Rd., Saline, MI 48176): Fun for the entire family including a petting zoo, kids maze, pumpkin patch, a hay pile and barrel train.
    734-429-1212    


    Ypsilanti

    16 Wiard's Orchards and County Fair (5565 Merritt Rd., Ypsilanti MI 48197)
    Enjoy a fall festival with apples, pumpkins, hay rides, inflatable bounce houses, putt putt, a petting farm and the perfect backdrop for fall family photos.
    734-482-7744

    As the weather turns, like the leaves gently blowing outside the window, be sure to step out and visit one of these great local cider mills for their fall attractions and events, family fun and perfect apples, cider and donuts! Many will have weekend events and entertainment suitable for the whole family or for a visit from your child's classroom.



    Sources: www.AnnArborMom.blogspot.com, individual company websites and www.pickyourown.org, www.Arborwiki.com

    July 3, 2017

    Why I Send My Children to Summer Camp

    As a child three things epitomized summer - Long nights running up and down the block with friends, swimming at the community pool, family vacations "up north", and most importantly, my parents sending me away to summer camp. I loved camp so much, that I even worked as a wrangler when I turned 14 and later a camp counselor. I have some of the most amazing memories of time spent at camp. Riding horses, mud-bogging, swimming in the swimming hole, crafts, rappelling, hikes, wildflowers, capturing bugs, capture the flag and laying on the hill under the beautiful might sky star-gazing. I suppose that is one of the reasons why I sent my children to camp as soon as I could.

    The wranglers at Spring Hill Camp in the mid-80's having
    as much fun as the summer camp kids did!

    Summer camp helps a child gain so much in life and it gives us parents a much needed break from the never ending "mom, mom, mom" requests. I can selfishly say that because it is true. Even parents need breaks! 

    My daughter started attending camp after her First -Grade year. My son attended camp after his first grade year, but at scout camp parents always went, so his experiences of attending camp alone did not really begin until after first grade when he attended camp with our church. The age of the child matters not though, ultimately parents will know when the timing is right!


    As my daughter is younger, she had watched her brother attend camp for three summers before she had her opportunity to. As a scout my son worked really hard to sell enough popcorn so that he earned camp for free, a benefit our Pack promoted to encourage profits for the Pack. So it came as no surprise when my daughter, a Girl Scout Daisy, sold a lot of cookies. That year the council offered an incentive allowing scouts "cookie cash" instead of the cheap prizes. I was all for that, since who needs more "stuff." The cookie cash could be used in council stores, but I felt it was important that my daughter understand that she could contribute to her camp. She was truthfully very excited to "help pay her way too." Between the fall product sales and cookie cash, my daughter helped cover over half of her camp experiences too! She was proud of what she did, as was I.

    That first year I registered her for camp though I became nervous about her leaving. After the holidays she went through a period of exceptional separation anxiety in school. Every morning a teacher would have to peel my daughter off me and out of the car to get her into the building, where she went down the hall in full tears. This went on for months, however my daughter insisted she still wanted to attend camp. 

    Fishing, metal working, sculpture, climbing, and
    shooting sports are some of the fun activities
    my kids have learned about at summer camp!
    As her week of summer camp approached, I prepped her to the best of my ability. I explained the drop off and pick up procedures, read her the camp documents and went through her packing list over and over. I even made sure that she would have a letter from home each day of her 4 days away. Her first camp was a short stay, three night one, so she could become more comfortable at camp. On the day of drop off, I drove her to camp, went to her cabin to set up her bunk and kissed her goodbye. I had prepped the camp ahead of time, letting them know of her anxiety issues, but from the moment I walked away from her campsite, I saw no tears. 

    This year my daughter tossed her items into her bed,
    turned and said, "Peace out mom." That was my cue that she
    was ready for me to leave her at summer camp.
    I was anxious that week, and expected a phone call from camp. Thankfully none came. She did fantastic that week. I picked up a filthy kid with hair skewed around her face. She was grinning from ear to ear, singing songs loudly for the parent performance at 5:00 too. She did briefly run quickly to me, engulfing me in the biggest hug, but then went back to sit with her new friends and counselors. I ultimately knew she would be fine, however I was exceptionally pleased to see the newfound confidence my daughter came home with that first year of summer camp!


    I mentioned that my son attended Cub Scout camp for several years WITH me there as his parent. The last two years there, other boys trusted me with their boys, but my son was stuck with me attending as the leader too. Although he had lots of growth, learning new things and having plenty of new experiences, he still had me with him. So the same year that my daughter attended sleep-away camp, my son also had his first time away. He went away for a week though!  I so appreciated the week as both were away at the same time for part of it and they both appreciated "life without mom" for a bit. Their newfound independence played a big role in their development and growth.
    I enjoy that they get to be part of a bigger, broader world too.  I'll never forget being a camp counselor and telling all my campers that if they wrote me, I would write them back. That may have been a big mistake on my part though, since I spent the summer buying stamps! Both of my children have come home with names, phone numbers and addresses of other kids and more importantly, they have stayed in touch with those kids! I made some amazing friends in similar fashion. My kids have mostly attended camp without knowing others there, both have had friends attend camp with them too. They will both say though, that they have had the most fun when they have gone without knowing anyone!

    We have always delivered our kids to their summer camp.
    Last year we let them ride the bus. It was yet another first
    for the kids and an exciting adventure for all!
    Summer camp has given my children a way to conquer fears and challenges like very few activities can. Several years ago while at camp, my son experienced a bit of hypothermia. He had to learn to go on with his day (after warming up of course). Last year, extreme weather coming through camp forced my daughters group to move their campsite THREE times during the week. If you've ever packed up after camp, you'll know this is no small feat either. Last summer during camp, my daughter had to pass the dreaded "tip test" during her camp session too. That is where they tip your canoe and teach you to be OK with that happening. She fretted over this for months ahead of time but came through it with flying colors. Having that experience helped her cope with her canoe getting stuck in the swampy mud during that week. She still tells the story of her counselor toeing them to safety, and that if you stepped out the mud would suck your shoe off.  Overcoming obstacles helps children to understand how to cope in their every day life when something does not go their way and goes wrong. I love the confidence that summer camp has helped build as the kids adapt to their environments. 



    Summer camp has provided my children with the opportunity to learn new things, gaining the strength, courage and confidence to try something they would have never otherwise tried. Several years ago, a monkey bridge and climbing wall caught my daughters attention. At the time she was timid about trying it, but she came home from camp last year telling me that her counselor on the climbing wall could not belay her fast enough. She was told she was a monkey on the wall and should consider climbing as a sport. This last year she was part of the Kids Club at Planet Rock! My son too has learned many new things. He seems to be a bit more like me, in that he aims to try something new at every opportunity. Last summer he tried sculpture and this summer is welding. He has taken to shooting sports too, and has decided he may like to get more serious about them this next fall. Camp is one of the few places where he can try these activities out. I'll admit. I feel kind of gipped - The only activities that were different when I was a kid was copper enamel crafts, rappelling and mud-bogging! 


    Sending my kids to summer camp is the highlight of their summer, much as it was mine. This summer my son is attended three weeks of camp away from home as well as another week away as part of the governor's honor guard on Mackinac Island. My daughter was a bit disappointed to not be going away for more, but as I write this she is away at Girl Scout camp learning to be a master chef. I can not wait for her to be home and show me what she has learned. I'm sure she will be cooking dinner for us soon and look forward to eating what she makes while hearing about the awesome adventures while she was away at summer camp.

    June 8, 2017

    Michigan Free Fishing Weekend

    The size of the fish is measured by a
    kid's smile! Enjoy free fishing in
    Michigan this weekend.
    Every year the Michigan DNR sponsors free fishing weekends, with June 10-11, being one of them. Although kids can always fish for free, if you are a non-fishing adult, this is a great time to check out the sport and introduce your kids to fishing. Besides you can get out in nature together! All fishing license fees will be waived for the weekend, however all fishing regulations will still apply. That's right it's FREE fishing!

     There are some ideal Washtenaw County fishing spots for families available. My kids especially like the ease of fishing off the docks at Rolling Hills. While there are very few "keepers" caught there, you can be assured that the kids will catch something - This alleviates the long wait times often associated with fishing. Of course this also spoils your children a bit, but seeing their faces when catching fish, well that's priceless!

    Events on Free Fishing Weekend

    Free Fishing programs are also happening through Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation at Rolling Hills park from 10:00 a.m. - noon on June 10 or at Independence Lake Park, on June 11 from 10:00 a.m. - noon.  Poles, bait and instruction are provided for this free event. available. Pre-registration is required at parksonline.ewashtenaw.org, (June 10: Section A:10-11/B:11-noon ; June 11 Section C: 10-11/ D: 11-noon). This event has a maximum of 15 people per session so be sure to register soon!

    Hook Line & Sinker - Learn to fish with the DNR! Rods, bait and instructions will be provided at the Waterloo Recreation Area, Crooked Lake fishing pier in Chelsea at 10:00 a.m.

    There were not many events listed at the time of publishing, but the State of Michigan has a partial list of Free Fishing Weekend events.

    Want to learn to fish but can't get out this weekend? Then the Hook, Line and Sinker program with the DNR might be up your ally. Learn casting and fishing basics with a borrowed rod and reel if you don't have your own equipment. Hook, Line and Sinker programs begin in mid-June and continue throughout the summer. There is one Saturday, June 4, 10 a.m. At Crooked Lake Fishing Pier in Washtenaw County!

    So make a date with the kids or start a new tradition while having some great fishing fun. It's time to enjoy that Michigan fishing!



    June 2, 2017

    Take a Hike at Hewens Creek

    My family loves being outdoors spending time with nature. We have spent countless hours at one of our local parks too, it's close to home, offers fishing, and has plenty of wildlife, bird species and fabulous hiking trails. I consider it my rural backyard! Where is this park you ask? The main entrance is located in a tiny parking lot less than a quarter mile west of Hitchingham on Bemis Road. The name of the park is Hewens Creek (6515 E Bemis Rd Ypsilanti, MI 48197).

     As a parent, I have taken my Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts there. I have picked up trash with the family, and helped remove invasive species (garlic mustard) with my family and my scouts. I have had my children see turtles laying eggs, we have observed a hummingbird in her nest, and been able to identify many species of birds. We have picnicked there and spent days hiking, fishing and wading in the small creek catching critters. We have ventured into the park since moving in more than 12 years ago.

    For me it's perfect. Its convenient and quiet. Mostly though I have enjoyed watching the trails become expanded and improved. It is now my go-to sanctuary and quiet zone.

    It is an Ypsilanti Township Park in addition to offering mountain bike trails which allow me to hike several miles in a single day. When you arrive, be sure to garb a trail map, or even download one if you have the QR Code. There is another map of some of the trails available at Map My Ride.






    June 1, 2017

    Imagination Library

    Several years ago I learned about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. In fact, my daughter participated for about a year through Washtenaw Success By 6 Great Start Collaborative. At the time, and currently, Washtenaw County families living in Ypsilanti can register to participate, specifically families residing in the 48197 or 48198 ZIP codes can participate.

    Think of it. A new, hardcover, age-appropriate book mailed to your home every month until your child reaches age 5. That means that by the time your child enters kindergarten they will have their own library of books.
    "My girls love when these books arrive every month," said Jenny Kukiela of Ypsilanti, "some of them have even become family favorites!" 
    Children that are accepted into the program receive free books each month until their turn 5. To register your child, visit the Imagination Library website. Southeastern Michigan families can register their children as well.

    May 11, 2017

    Thoughts of Mom and Mother's Day


    It's a bit chilly this morning. I certainly don't need the fireplace on but it is of comfort on this gray, dreary day. I can hear the birds chirping outdoors and the ducks and geese in the pond. I can't hear the fountain, but know it's on. I can see it out the window.

    The lilacs are blooming and sweetly fill the air and everything is greening. Not the dark green of summer, but that light, bright green that signals early spring. 

    Dandelions are blooming and going to fluff and the grass is growing at a speed that most neighbors can hardly keep up. Our eyes are teary from blooming plants and trees and noses are running. 

    I watched a video this morning about a man documenting his mother's dementia journey. Although you did not have dementia, I have sympathy for him when he runs into the "worst day of his life." The day his mother did not know him. I empathize because after your stroke I did not know if you knew me. You could not remember my name for a week or two and I wasn't sure. I thought those were the worst days of my life. I was wrong.

    I think about you often. Maybe not as much as you struggled when grandma passed away. But a lot. I sometimes don't realize I am thinking of you. I do miss you a lot. The thing is the worst day of my life, as it stands now, is not you forgetting me, it's the day you left.

    Sometimes writing helps.

    I know this is the type of morning you loved. You would call me and tell me you were sitting out on your deck with coffee in hand. You'd be watching the birds or other critters come by the deck. Sometimes a squirrel. Sometimes a bunny. Even ducks and deer stopped by. You would tell me of the butterflies, frogs and flowers. It was always about your deck and flowers.

    Of course you taught me that it's too early for potted flowers. Never before Memorial Day. I would laugh and talk about my greenhouse or hoop house. Like I could one up Mother Nature. I lost many plants with my "knowledge" but never put out potted flowers before Memorial Day, unless they were cold weather hardy, like Pansies. 

    Those friendly cheerful faces on the Pansies, the lilacs and the gerber daisy I saved from your memorial remind me of you. The birds. The critters outside my window, they too are a reminder. 

    I am doing OK mom. I miss you and love you. Happy Mother's Day.  This year it's hard, but know that I hold you in my heart and will forever remember. 

    April 25, 2017

    Passport 2 Pittsfield

    On May 7, explore Pittsfield Township, learning
    about the community while finding many fun family activities and freebies!

    Another weekend event for the whole family is the Passport 2 Pittsfield Event. This free event on Sunday, May 7, from 1:00–4:00 p.m.allows families will explore Pittsfield Township as they fill their "Passport".

    Families will collect stamps and goodies as you travel throughout the Township stopping by each of the locations to tour the buildings, share your ideas, and learn about the services that Pittsfield Township has to offer. Activities you can encounter along the way include:
    • Free line dancing
    • Play Earth Day Bingo
    • Free coloring book for the kids
    • Make a flower art sculpture
    • Get crafty creating a box city
    • Get your own tree to plant with a free state tree seedling
    • Kids will get their own Police Badge, Firefighter hat, and Child ID Kits (for mom and dad) 
    There is no lack of fun with games, parachute fun, emergency vehicle displays, and photos with Sparky the Fire Dog and McGruff the Crime Dog! Families can also get into drawing for prizes from many local restaurant and shopping establishments.

    April 6, 2017

    Building Life Skills with Summer Camp

    Summer camp was a right of passage for me which is why my kids attend!
    My kids are stronger, better team members and excellent problem solvers
    in part due to what they have experienced in going away to camp.

    Every summer growing up, my parents sent me away for a week of summer camp. It started  with Girl Scout camp then ended up as a week away at overnight camp where horseback riding was the focus. In fact, I ended up becoming a wrangler at that camp! I remember my summer camp experiences fondly.

    Those experiences helped me mature in many ways. I became more self-confident. As a child I marched to the beat of my own drummer and did not feel the pressure to give in to some of the bad habits many of my friends fell into as teens. The American Camp Association calls this the four "C's" of the camp community: compassion, contribution, commitment, and character! And certainly, going away to summer camp helped build that in me.

    I've had a similar experience in sending my children away to summer camp. My kids started attending camp their summers before they went into 2nd grade. It was very clear in my daughter though.
    Girls CAN do anything!


    Overcoming Separation Anxiety

    During my daughter's 1st grade year she had a terrible episode of separation anxiety. She would cry hysterically each morning, clinging to me in the drop-off lane. Often she would need to be pried off of me and carried into school. It was horrific for me. No one needs to start their day that way, not her or I!

    She insisted though that she wanted to attend Girl Scout horseback riding camp. As a compromise, I choose a 4 day camp, where she would only be away 3 nights. I prepped her in the best way possible then hoped for the best. She was a bit apprehensive when arriving, but cried when she left and begged to stay longer. The changes in her after camp though were phenomenal. She came back more confident and ready to take charge.


    Building Character

    My son had a similar experience. In Cub Scouts you don't go solo to camp until you are a Webelo. After he completed 3rd grade though I sent him to the church camp. He has gone away to camp every year since then and has attended several weeks of camp since he's been a Boy Scout. In fact last summer he was away 4 weeks! FOUR!

    I experienced the biggest growth from him after he went to scout camp. He came home more mature and composed and asked to cook dinner once a week and even to do some of his own laundry. Um, OK, who are you and what did you do to my son! That program had all older boys and they clearly rubbed off on him.

    Kids who attend summer camp will try new things,
    learn team building skills and become more resilient! 



    Is My Child Ready?

    "But is my child ready to go to sleep-away camp?" 

    There is no age that is ideal for starting camp. Each parent will need to make individual decisions. The first thing to consider though is what TYPE of summer camp you are considering? Parents should also consider their child's development. Ask others about the summer camp their children attend.

    Parents may even consider interviewing the camp or perhaps sending their child with a friend. I will say though that the year my child attended with a friend she did NOT have as much fun. The other little girl only partnered with my daughter and hung off her constantly hampering any growth for either child.
    Is my child ready to
    attend summer camp? You bet!


    Foundations for Adulthood

    Attending summer camp really will help your child build their foundation of adulthood. They will gain independence, and gain skills. They will be in a team-building atmosphere and learn resilience. They will learn to make decisions and try new things. Your child will mature in ways that will wow you and have memories that will last a lifetime.


    What Are You Waiting For?

    When children do well at school, they earn good grades. But when children succeed at camp, they learn valuable lessons. Attending summer camp will teach your child character-building skills that are good for life. I know it has done that for my kids!

    March 7, 2017

    Stridepost Family Motivation Game


    I wanted to share with you Stridepost, a new family motivation app for today’s technology-driven families. They are launching this week with a 21 Day Motivation Game. I like the idea that it is a simple, fun way to reward your kids n getting them motivated to do chores. Your children Kids use technology more than ever, so why not use this as an advantage to bring your family together, while staying organized and getting things done.

    Stridepost’s four main features not only help to keep your kids motivated and excited to complete tasks, but also your whole family organized and on the same page:


    • Allowance & Rewards Tracker – Set points or an allowance budget for your kids to work toward as they check off their to-dos. Each task completed earns points, and on Sundays, these points are deposited into kids’ accounts. Kids can redeem points for things you agree upon.
    • To-do List Tracker – Keep track of your kids’ and family tasks while teaching kids how to prioritize their responsibilities to develop strong management skills.
    • Family Wall – All members of your family can communicate in one place through private in-app messages.
    • Online Family Calendar – Use the master Online Family Calendar. You can even import a Google Calendar or iCal into Stridepost’s Family Calendar!


    Now through June 15, families can participate and enter the Family Motivation Game. The winning family will receive a Family Fun Pack valued at $300, which will include gift cards for a family night out, including a special activity and dinner. So what are you waiting for, improve your family communication and organization while having fun, with special daily challenges. I know I am excited to see my kids play (even if they can't win!).

    To enter, sign up for Stridepost online for a free 90-day trial. Parents will need to can download the Stridepost Parents app (iOS and Android) and while adding the Stridepost Kids app (iOS and Android). to the devices their children use!

    March 2, 2017

    Free Spring Movies

    Free movies are a wonderful thing. They give us something to do when spring is muddy and gray. Weekends, through April 2, your family can enjoy free movies at local Goodrich Quality Theaters. Showtimes will be available the Tuesday before and tickets are only available at the door. Tickets for adults are just $1 but kids 12 and under get free admission to the movies!

    In Ann Arbor, that gives us a choice of two theaters for free movies this spring:

    Goodrich Quality 16
    3686 Jackson Rd., Ann Arbor

    Goodrich Canton 7
    43555 Ford Road, Canton Twp.



    Trolls (PG) – March 11 & 12 
    Middle School (PG) – March 18 & 19 
    Storks (PG) – March 25 & 26 
    Sing (PG) – April 1 & 2

    It's hard to pass up a free movie no matter how much concession stand goodies you purchase. So one of these cold, wet or dreary late winter early spring weekends, be sure to sneak out with the kids and enjoy your free movie!





    February 13, 2017

    Valentine From Mom

    It's been a little bit of a tough winter for me. Some of you know, but I lost my mom last fall. She had a terminal cancer so we expected death, but not like that. The year before her death, she was in and out of the hospital several times then had a stroke in August. A month later she passed away from an unknown reason.

    I knew she would die. I knew she would die sooner rather than later. Given all of her illness that last year, I suspected we would loose her sooner than anticipated. The night before she passed though, I had her out to dinner and had a lovely night with her. I would not guess that by 2:00 the next day she would be dead. That was the difficult part.

    My birthday passed, then the holidays and finally her birthday. It likely did not help that we had little to no sun in January either. I thought I did well, but still felt her loss deeply.

    I can't be the only person who has lost a parent, that talks to that parent. In fact, in mentioning that, I found out that most people talk to their deceased parent. I talk to her mainly when it is quiet, and when I am alone. Like when I talk a walk at night or when driving alone in the car. 

    In the last couple days though, there have been several times where I just wanted to pick up the phone and talk to mom. I wanted to share a little story about my daughter or share my son's latest accomplishment.

    So this weekend when I had to go to Port Huron for Boy Scouts, I went to where her childhood house on the river used to be. My grandpa was the commercial fisherman/bait guy where the Port Huron Coast Guard station now sits. There is a small park there, across the street from my great-grandma's house, so I walked for a bit to talk to her. I walked and told her everything.

     I still had several hours to kill before getting my son and his friends, so I went in search of rocks. Thanks to my grandfather, I am a rock-hound. Much to the dismay of my husband and children, I can easily spend hours siting and sifting through rocks on the beach. Taking the opportunity to walk along the beach, without anyone else sounded divine.

    I stopped at three beaches between Port Huron and Fort Gratiot. The first one is across the street of my childhood home, and the other two were ones I have visited many times when I was a child. There was still a small ice shelf on the beach, but the sun was peeking from behind the clouds and there was little wind, making it a nice winter day.

    I know what to expect in searching those beaches. Horn coral, small petosky stones, chain coral, favosite fragments, red jasper, unakite, perhaps some beach glass and maybe a puddingstone. For the first time ever I even found a puddingstone!


    I was almost out of time when I visited the last beach. Although I had already found several nice Petosky stones, I asked my mom if she would help me find a really nice (big) Petoskey or puddingstone. That's when it happened. I looked down and found a tiny puddingstone with a small red jasper heart. 

    I could not believe the little beauty staring back at me. I immediately picked it up and thought perhaps someone had painted the heart on a tone and left it to be found. I was right. I was painted by God and left for me to find. It was a sign from my mom that she was listening and was sending her love to me.


    February 7, 2017

    Valentine's Day Craft Projects for Kids and Teens

    Kid's can make their Valentine a salt-dough 
    heart or create other personalized craft 
    creations this week at several events 
    throughout Ann Arbor.

    Photo courtesy of Kaboose.
    When I think of Valentine's Day, I am reminded of a Valentine's Day school party in fifth grade. I passed out the typical handcrafted Valentine's Day cards to classmates and even got crafty with salt-dough, shaping it into a Valentine heart that I gave to Hank, my fifth grade crush. Unfortunately for me, even though I didn't label who the heart was from, he knew, and proceeded to tell the entire class I didn't know how to cook. Explaining that it wasn't a cookie was a fruitless effort and quite embarrassing!
    Creating Valentine's Day gifts, though, became a tradition of sorts and one that I have passed to my children — everyone loves a good treat, be it baked or crafted, and this week throughout Ann Arbor, there are many opportunities for your children and teens to craft their hearts out!
    Michaels Crafts is always a good location for free or low-cost "Make-it Take-it" craft projects, and this week they are not failing to deliver. On Saturday, Feb. 11 from 10:00 a.m. - noon, kids ages 3 and up can drop in to create their own Valentine's cookie. Later that same day, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. Buy blank cards in the store and create Valentine's Day cards with free craft supplies during the Michael's Make Event. 

    The Ann Arbor Library has a couple events for children and teens to create sometime sweet for their sweethearts. On Saturday, Feb. 11 fat 2:00 p.m. at the Pittsfield branch, kids can create their very own Valentine's card and decoration to give to someone special. Then on Valentine's Day, be sure to stop in and learn all about chocolate. From 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the downtown library, learn about how chocolate is grown,  how to melt and temper it, and what the different percentages mean. This special event is intended for teens in grades 6 and up and adults. The event is sponsored by the People's Food Co-Op. Be sure to log into your Ann Arbor Library account to register!
    Do you know of other Valentine's Day events to add to the calendar. Please share them in the comments below!


    January 17, 2017

    One Glove Wonder? Taking Care of Your Things

    I must be the worst mom in the world tonight, or at least one that needs to re-examine disciplining her child and her own very bad reaction to a trivial problem. I actually yelled, very loudly and in a not-so-nice way, at my son for losing a glove. A glove!

    I should say though, that after my son’s break-down just last week over losing one of his new Iron Man gloves, I thought he’d have learned a lesson. This entire school year I have been drilling home that his gloves and hat need to go into, and stay, in his backpack when they aren’t on his hands. So why this should even have been an issue. He’s old enough to know better. His crying and carrying on last week over this glove was terrible! I thought of telling him not to worry, since a single Iron Man glove would be of little interest to anyone. However, since the lost and found box has yet to belch out the aforementioned single missing glove, I now have to wonder if there was another little boy missing HIS Iron Man glove… But I digress.

    This post is about discipline, both mine and his. It’s also about teaching a child how to care for their own things and about handling the repercussions when they don’t.

    I have been asking my son to keep everything in his backpack since the start of school. I have also told him that HE is responsible for his own backpack and lunch bag. However I may have set a bad example when the dog ate through both the backpack and the lunch bag when my son left his bag out where the dog could get at it.

    What did I do? Went right out and bought him a new backpack and lunch bag. I suppose I didn’t think about what message this would send my son, after all he needed both, as the backpack and the lunch bag were beyond repair. But what does that say to a child? Don’t worry mom will just buy more, right? How would it have better been handled? He did pretty well too until the missing, well-loved glove incident of last week. Mostly though this is due to my constant reminder for him to be aware of his things.

    Today my son was emptying his backpack and yet again said the dreaded words, “Mom I lost a glove.” What makes this even worse is that it is actually 3 missing gloves since his (also new) Batman gloves were double-layered gloves that included two black full gloves with two fingerless gloves on top. I was going to suggest that from now on he would have to wear one Iron Man glove and the now single Batman glove, the problem is the remaining Batman glove is the fingerless one!

    I told him that tomorrow he and his father would have to go out and buy two new pairs of gloves, with HIS money. I just can not discuss the gloves again. I still think I missed the mark though. My biggest concerns as a parent though are ‘why should missing one glove cause such an eruption of my emotions’ and more importantly, since it did, what will happen when my son truly does something “bad” and I get mad? I also need to consider him coming to me with his real issues; if I react so poorly won’t he choose to not come to me as a parent?

    So here I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, and knowing fully well that I handled the entire situation very poorly. I know I am not alone as there are at least 20 single gloves in the lost and found that would likely produce likewise unhappy parents, I just need to re-examine my own behavior over the missing glove incident tonight as well as how to handle my son’s need for new gloves.

    If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I am currently reflecting upon some of the following questions:

    How do you teach your children to respect personal property? How do you teach a child the value of ‘things”? At what “age” should children be expected to be responsible for belongings? How do you discipline a child when something “necessary” is lost or damaged?

    republished from annarbor.com 2010