Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Glorious Fall at Eagle Creek

We took a break from all the household chores that love to ensnare us on the weekend, and went on a fall hike.  You just have to put it on the calendar sometimes, like you would a doctor appointment, or it simply won't ever happen!  

This is the time of year I wish would last for at least six months but, alas, it's over all too quickly.  We are lucky to get three weeks of it!  So we try to savor what we can.










It was a three mile hike and so we had to bribe the kids with hot chocolate (mochas for the adults) and chewy ginger cookies.  It worked!  They made it!







Happy Autumn!

Meandering at the Zoo

One of the best things about getting a zoo pass is that you “have to” go so you get your money’s worth!  And you don’t have to see everything in one day, of course, because you’ll be back soon.

Yesterday we went to the zoo.  We had been studying really, really hard and I felt the kids deserved something fun in their life as a reward for all their hard work.  (I'm a Work Hard, Play Hard kind of person.)  We were out running an errand and decided at the last minute to go go the zoo.  

I let the kids each pick one thing to see.  We meandered lazily, spending a long time watching the flamingos stomp in the mud with their webbed feet and use their beaks to filter food they found in the mud.  It was actually very interesting to spend a chunk of time observing the flamingo.  This is the type of thing that never happens when you're in a hurry to "see it all."  











Friends and Dunes

So many pictures to upload off my phone, so little time …  Here are the pics from our little jaunt to Michigan last August.  This trip was inspired by a desire to see some dear friends and also some intriguing pictures in a travel magazine, which touted Sleeping Bear Dunes as one of the top 10 places to take kids.  Since it’s roughly six hours away, we figured it would be a fairly easy three-day trip.

First we met our friends the Reitzes in this quaint German town called Frankenmuth.  All the planters were gorgeous and it definitely had a European feel to it.


I had to take this picture of Rachelle at the brewery where we had lunch.  How cute is that little mug? 

We enjoyed catching up with the Reitz family!  We are so glad they live in the Midwest now!


A coffee break in Cadillac.  This is where Michigan started getting really pretty:



We checked into our hotel in Traverse City.  After the kids played with the Murphy bed for a bit, we set out to explore the Old Mission Peninsula.  The drive was chock full of scenic vistas and rolling orchards and wineries. It was just beautiful.  And I think the lighthouse beach at the end of the peninsula is probably one of the most random-fun places I have seen.  

This beach was so quirky with all of the cairns. You could walk more than a mile in transparent water stretching out over a sandbar.  It was peaceful, calm, breathtaking.  We sat there while the kids played for about an hour.  I could have stayed much longer. 





Then there was the infamous Dune Climb.  It was a workout but not as bad as I’d expected.  Maybe this was due to the fact that it had rained that morning and the sand was more compact than normal?  We got lucky!  And the view at the top was definitely worth the perspiration!



Isn’t this spectacular?!





Taking time to observe a friendly monarch butterfly. 



Resting after a picnic lunch.


A beautiful beach at Sleeping Bear Dunes.  



The scenic drive at SBD was amazing.  Totally worth the $10 admission to the park!  This was my favorite place we stopped, I think.  A massive dune that descended rapidly into the great blue beyond.  The sea was a wide, swirling blend of blue and green hues, with the gorgeous sky beyond.  This is another place I could have spent lots of hours, just sitting there and taking it all in.



Isn't this just gorgeous?  The shoreline on the scenic drive was amazing.  Like Kevin said, "It's hard to even believe this is the Midwest."  Not that we don't love the Midwest. It has so many virtues and is a great place to live.  But this was just something so different and surprisingly beautiful, we could hardly believe we hadn't driven much farther to see it.  

Thank you Travel Magazine, wherever you now are, for giving us the idea for this fantastic trip!!


This picture was taken on a walk in Traverse City.  I think we were out on the marina.  Traverse City itself was beautiful. I would love to go back!  There were numerous sail boats out.  It was a colorful and quaint town, with lots of perfect views of the bay.



A brief stop in South Haven for lunch and ice cream ended our trip.  I'm a big Shauna Niequist fan and she writes a lot about South Haven so I thought it would be fun to stop and see the town. 


Life is too short to not do things like this!  It was an adventure we will keep with us forever.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Thoughts on 4-H

Meredith did 4-H for the first time this year.  I have no background in 4-H.  I was a Girl Scout.  Although I have no background in 4-H, I've heard enough stories about Kevin's experiences, including art projects and a foray into the world of sheep showmanship, that I have definitely participated in 4-H vicariously. 

When the topic of 4-H came up in our house, I was unsure whether or not I had time to take something else on.  Would my bright-eyed, beautiful, scrawny little 3rd grader be able to do this by herself?  She is so mature, yet still needs so much help to get through much of her school work.  Visions of being up until midnight helping her paste a sub-par, quickly put-together, much-stressed-over, stupid poster, came to mind.  There was no way that was happening.  Would Meredith come through and do it herself?  Yes, she promised she would. So, we decided to start with just one project, to get our feet wet.  Meredith chose Horsemen Without Horses.

I was completely unimpressed with the online information 4-H provides.  There's no good 4-H for Dummies website!  Since we couldn't make club meetings, because Meredith had a prior commitment, it took us a while to make sense of everything.  Thankfully her project leader, once we finally figured out who she was, was super nice and held our hands through the process. 

About two weeks before her project was due, I realized Meredith was still only in the beginning phases of research.  I had taken her to the library and she had gone off to some dark recesses of the building with the children's librarian to find books that fell within the parameters of her project.  She selected four books, but had probably only read a few pages.  

I marked a sheet of paper with the exact amount of days she had left before her deadline and hung it on the refrigerator.  On day four, when she still had made no progress, I said, "Meredith if you blow off this deadline, you are going to have to write a long letter to your project leader apologizing for laziness and deliver it in person."  Her eyes widened, she disappeared into her room, and read two of her books before dinner time.  (I'm glad that a healthy dose of pride is that motivating for her!)  She read the next two books the following day.  She ended up with four pages of hand-written summaries.  I helped her type them out and then she printed pictures and pasted everything to the poster entirely by herself.  

This is what a sense of accomplishment looks like!  


In the end, it wasn't just the sense of accomplishment and the dose of confidence she got, realizing she could complete something almost entirely on her own, that made 4-H worthwhile.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of Meredith's learning is hand-selected by either her teachers at school or by her Tiger Mom (yes, me). She doesn't often get the opportunity to deeply delve into something that she personally has selected to study.  4-H was an outlet for her to choose something she is independently interested in (she chose horses) and then go learn about it.  I liked that she was able to complete a self-directed project.  I think 4-H is a great tool to help kids to be motivated, lifelong learners.  

Next year Meredith wants to do four projects.  We shall see about that ...