Peanut Turns 5

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Peanut turns 5 today. We're trying to convince him he's turning 3, because time moves backwards, right? I mean, there's no way my 4-year-old could be turning 5. Oh, we had a good laugh about that last night. He asked for a glass of milk and I told him "No way! If you drink milk and grow your bones, then you're going to turn 5!" He giggled and I relented. But seriously, how do 5 entire years pass by in such a wisp, like a moving cloud?

My Peanut

This little boy is one of the best gifts a momma could ask for. He's intelligent, he's considerate, he's helpful, he's sensitive to others' needs, he's spiritual, he's headstrong, he's a born leader, he's athletic, he's funny and he's all mine. I'm so proud that I get to be his momma.

Every year, I write him a letter and tuck it away for him for when he gets older. It's a special little tradition that I hold close to my heart. I tell him what I'm thinking about him at this particular stage in his life, so it sort of is like a record of his life and a confession of what being his momma is really like for me. You see, as a writer and mother, these things are so much easier to write and record than to ever explain to him out loud. Someday, I hope he appreciates these letters.

Boy in the trees

I also purchase a special coin set for him every year from the US Mint. He has quite the little collection building that I hope someday makes him smile. We have one coin set minted from every year since he's been alive.

I just love my little Peanut to pieces. I must've done something right for God to give me such a sweet little kid.

Rock Lookout
Happy Birthday Peanut!

If you're ever in Mackinaw City Michigan

A few days ago, I offered some insider peeks into our trip to Mackinaw City/Mackinac Island, and I thought it would be great to follow up the post with a virtual itinerary if you happen to travel there. From my experience, these are some of the highlights of the area that you should definitely try:

1. Pick a lighthouse, any lighthouse. Since the Mackinaw straits are narrow and freckled with islands, lighthouses are pretty essential for water travel. Shipwrecks are pretty notorious in the area, so towering beacons abound. Some are only retained for historical value while others are still in use. The Old Mackinac Lighthouse right by the bridge in Mackinaw City costs and comes with a guided tour, but there are a few just down the road that are free and self-guided. It's neat to see how the lighthouse guardians lived. It was a pretty lucrative career back in the day, but also highly particular. Your house had to be immaculate and you were required to take scrupulous notes about everything from the grounds to the weather to transportation reports.

American Lighthouse

2. Catch a sunset at the beach. You won't be alone. The night we went, there were people everywhere on park benches and lawn chairs. It's so incredible to watch all the colors and the city-scapes. And hey, of course it was a full moon when we decided to wander down to the beach. Bonus!

Full Moon

Under Mackinac Bridge
Peanut learning how to skip rocks while we wait for sunset.

Ocean Bible verse
I happened to read this verse in Psalms while listening to the waves: "The voice of the Lord is over the waters." And oh, was I hanging onto every word.

3. Try a pastie. I have never been introduced to a pastie in my entire life. As we headed to Upper Michigan, we started seeing all these pastie shops everywhere. We wondered what they were. So, when in Rome... we decided to try some. We finally did so on Thursday night. Basically, pasties go back to the time of mining when the miners' wives would pack their husbands lunches. They packed meat, potatoes and veggies in this pastry shell. Reason being is they're easy to carry along to the jobsite and very filling. We tried the taco and stroganoff pasties at one of the award-winning pastie shops. Yum!

Mackinaw Pastie Company

Upper Michigan Pasties

4. Swim in the Great Lakes: When the weather stays hot for several weeks and the water finally warms up, a good swim in these giant freshwater lakes is refreshing. The clearness of the water is also impeccable. I couldn't believe how clear Lake Huron was, but I guess I'm jaded by our yucky Lake Winnebago waters. Just make sure you bring water shoes! It's really rocky everywhere, and you'll appreciate the reprieve of aqua socks.

Lake Michigan Shoreline
Wading in Lake Michigan

Clear water in Lake Huron
See how clear Lake Huron is? And oh so rocky.

Peanut on the rocks

5. Visit the butterfly museum on the island. It's off the beaten path a bit, but sooo worth the visit, especially if you have children. They even give you a butterfly guide so you can even decipher the different types of butterflies. Standing in a greenhouse waiting for amazing ornate butterflies to land on you is pretty magical, if you ask me.

Butterfly nectar

Butterfly Museum

6. Try the fudge and ice cream. This is pretty much a given. Mackinac Island Fudge is pretty famous, and for good reason. You won't make it one single block on the island or mainland without running into a sweets shop. Just give in at least once and see what all the fuss is about.

Island Ice Cream


7. Travel via horse or bike. You have to anyway. No motor vehicles are allowed on Mackinac Island, except for a select few emergency vehicles and such. Even the UPS/FedEx/USPS guy delivered packages via horse-drawn carriage. You can plan ahead and bring along your own bike on the ferry or rent one. The clippety-clop of horses everywhere is just neat. It's like you're being transported to a whole different era.

Mackinac Island Carriage

Mackinac Island Transportation

8. But explore some of the island by foot. You miss some of the incredible details while you're on a faster-moving vehicle. Horses and bikes cost by the hour (unless you bring your own on the ferry), so you'll have a great opportunity to explore by foot as well. If you were to walk the entire perimeter of the island, it's only 8.3 miles anyhow. These are just some of the neater details I caught:

Guests were building these Inukshuk-style statues everywhere along the rocky beaches.

Ornate details of a dragonfly

Private Residence
Beautiful residential details, flower-lined walk path and iron gates.

View from Mackinac Island
View of the shore from the topmost part of the island.

Mackinac Island Groundhog
Hey, is that a groundhog? Why yes, yes it is.

9. Check out the local thrift stores. The prices in these stories in upper Michigan are much more friendly than the ones in the "big" cities. I couldn't tear myself away from the kid's section at the thrift shop in Cheboygan. No shirt was priced more than $1.50 and I got Peanut this handsome little button-down wardrobe--and a shirt for me--for less than $15, and they were all in great shape. It's a nice way to inherit a few name brands that we wouldn't normally pay full price for.

Salvation Army

10. Get a load of the magnificent Mackinaw Bridge. I mean, unless you get to travel the San Francisco bridge every day, this is a pretty significant site. The towering bridge and story of its construction is just amazing. It does cost $4 each way to cross the bridge. Our ferry ride also took us under the bridge so we got to see it from all sides.

Mackinaw Bridge

11. Gain access to an indoor waterpark, especially if you have kids. Several of the motels in Mackinaw City offer free indoor waterpark wristbands while other motels have waterparks built right inside them. On days when you're not travelling and the weather turns sour, you'll still have something really fun to do.

Indoor Waterpark

12. Visit the sand dunes. When I mentioned to my boss that I was visiting the area, she told me that the beautiful white sandy beaches were used for stand-in Caribbean photo shoots because of their similar geography and appearance. Many of the bigger sand dunes have a "look but don't touch" kind of warning, and recent news stories about boys buried in sand dunes should give you a good idea about why you might want to stand back and admire from a distance.

13. And last but not least, when your son asks you to marry him by offering you a hand-picked upper Michigan wildflower, always say "yes."

Pinch Bouquet

I genuinely hope this post is informative for those of you that are making the trip soon or even inspires you to make a special trip to the Mackinaw City area. If you go, stop back here and tell me about your trip! Or, if you've already been there, I'd love to hear about your experiences or if you have anything else to share.

Shortly, I'll be back with a post about staying fit on vacation, based on my experiences on this trip as well as many previous trips. So, stay tuned for that!

Mackinac Island Trip Highlights

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Oh my gosh, I can hardly believe it. I have not been on the computer in an entire week! Usually, my job has me tied to a computer for 8 hours, and sometimes when I return home I might spend another hour or so online with blog posts, etc. But this week, I was completely unplugged. Seriously, the only phone call I even made was handed over to Peanut so he could talk to his grandma. I think my poor overworked eyes and brains enjoyed the break.

That being said, I was really itching to get on here to stay connected with all of you and give you some updates on our fabulous trip to Mackinac Island. I have four other posts in development as well on maintaining fitness habits on vacation, turning family trips into learning opportunities, travelling on a budget, and a where to go/what to see post about Mackinac Island itself. The trip gave me a big hit of creative juices.

Let me just say, the weather turned out to perfectly coincide with what we planned each day. Outdoor swimming days and Island exploring days were met with perfect weather. Indoor movie days and lighthouse exploring days were windier and chillier.

Sunday: We left on Sunday for a long 5-hour drive "up north." The weather looked pretty ominous the entire way, but we never hit any real rain. We got to cross the glorious Mackinaw Bridge on our way to our motel. We checked in, had a snack and decided to explore our surroundings just a bit. Mackinaw city is comparable to downtown Wisconsin Dells. Lots of tourist shops, wineries, restaurants and even a Haunted House. Most ridiculous $7 ever spent was at said Haunted House. Oh geez! It was cheesy, but I screamed at least 3 times and it will be one funny memory our family will always have. Sunday night, we endured a huge rain and thunder storm. It was exciting to watch and listen to it from our hotel room.

Touching Lake Michigan
Amazing sandy beach rest stops along Lake Michigan


Pinch Bouquet
It wouldn't be summer if I couldn't walk around with a perpetual pinch bouquet in my hands.

Monday: The weather was impeccable on Monday. Hot enough to swim in the Great Lakes. Swimming in Lake Huron, though rocky, was fabulous. The water was so clear and refreshing on that hot mid-summer day. We drank it all in.

Climbing Rocks

Big rock in Lake Huron
Swimming in Lake Huron

Beach Views
A girl could get used to this!

Econolodge Pool
Peanut getting his swim on

Clear water in Lake Huron
Check out how clear that Great Lakes water is!

Tuesday: The weather turned cool on Tuesday, so our plans to catch Despicable Me 2 were perfect. The movie is very cute. We also explored a lighthouse on Tuesday--a great place to be when the wind was whipping and turning the lake into relentless undulating whitecaps. After all of that, we took a trip into Cheboygan where we stopped at a local thrift store and let Peanut wear himself out at the indoor playground at Burger King.


Wednesday: We decided on the midweek point to hit Mackinac Island. That way, we had something look forward to, but we also had an extra day padded in, just in case we decided we wanted to go back to the island the next day. Again, we couldn't have asked for more perfect weather. It eventually warmed up into a comfortable temperature where we weren't cold but weren't sweating and the wind had dramatically died down. On the island, we took a guest-driven horse carriage ride, explored some historical sites, visited the amazing butterfly museum and had a lovely lunch out. The butterfly museum was the highlight of the trip for me.

View from carriage
Guest-driven horse carriage rides. We wanted to go horseback riding, but all the stables told us that for insurance purposes, no one under the age of 10 is allowed to ride. Carriage ride it is!

Cool Studebaker
Cool old Studebaker we found behind the Fort.

Butterfly Hair
Like my live butterfly hairpiece?

Blue Butterfly
Wings on Hubster's shoulder so gorgeous they almost look fake.

The Grand Hotel
The Grande Hotel

Island Views
Some of the views we enjoyed on Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island Church
Trinity Church on Mackinac Island

Seabiscuit cafe
We ate at the Seabiscuit Cafe, which was perfect. The portions were more normal-sized, which is ideal since one can't possibly carry leftovers with them for the rest of the day on an island.

Dinner at Seabiscuit cafe
I had the Honey Nut Chicken Salad Sandwich with sweet potato fries. The petite little sandwiches were just enough to be satisfying. The whole meal was oh so good!

Fruit Sangria
I splurged on a white wine citrus fruit sangria that cost more than my dinner. So entirely perfect for a cheers to a great family trip.

Kayne's Beer
Peanut even tried the local beer. Root beer that is...

St. Ann's Cemetary
We took a sobering meander through St. Ann's cemetery

Mary Biddle's Grave
This gravesite was marked as the oldest one in Saint Ann's Cemetery. It was a poor sweet little 8 year old girl who lived from 1825 to 1833.

Thursday: Our last full day on vacation, we did a lot of sleeping, giving the pool one last run, and leisurely enjoying the day. We took one last trip down a road out of town to see where it would take us. We ended up at a few more amazing places quite by accident. One more lighthouse, Heritage Village and a place called the Headlands. The Headlands is one of only a handful of designated night sky viewing areas in the entire country. Because it's so secluded and tree-covered, night viewing is impeccably clear, especially for meteor showers and Northern Lights. Lining the road is a self-guided tour explaining the myths, legends and facts behind each of the planets.

Lighthouse spiral stairs
Lighthouse staircase

Mackinaw City Lighthouse

Mackinac City Wigwam
Wigwam at Heritage Village in Mackinaw City

Wood pile
On the trails

1800s home
Old home at Heritage Village that was originally built by hand from logs in the 1800s that stayed in the family until the 1950s. Insulation came in the form of crumpled up newspaper in the walls.

bean teepee
Heritage Village family kitchen garden. There was even a compost heap.

Friday: We left right away in the morning, and with the time change, got back home relatively early in the afternoon. The rain was monsoon-like on our drive home, but again, the weather was timed perfectly with our plans.

We're safe at home and glad to have the weekend to rest from our vacation, you know what I'm saying? Tomorrow we're heading to Deerfest to meet some reality TV stars and browse hunting gear. Next week, EAA is in town, so we plan to take Peanut to the viewing tower inside the museum to watch the planes go in and out. Peanut's 5th birthday is also this week, so we have a lot planned. I'll be taking tomorrow and Sunday to relax before kicking it up again.

Hope you had a great week! I'll be back with a "If you're ever in the Mackinaw area..." post real soon. Stay posted!