My Baby Girl’s First Birthday Party

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AnnasFirstBirthday

It’s hard to believe, but Pinterest wasn’t even a thing when my son and daughter were little.  If it had been, well, I’d have done a better job of planning their first birthday parties!  I’ve often thought over the years that I didn’t exploit the fact that they have no expressible opinion at that age, so I could have essentially done whatever I wanted to do for just one year. So, between her Ralphie inspired pink bunny first Halloween costume last fall and wedding-esque first birthday party,  I think I may have made up for a little of what I lost with the other two.  I may just be able to make it through the next several years of Dora, polka dots, and animal print.  Or not.  Probably not.

As you’ve probably already surmised, we celebrated our sweet, tiny girl’s first birthday this past weekend.  I took some time away from the blog to research her party, construct a tablescape, order a custom outfit and invitations from Etsy, flowers from a florist, and some other decoratives to make it a beautiful and rustic first birthday.  I want to show you all the details because I love to share these things with you along with all the other things we regularly have on tap and, also, because this is something you can easily pull off yourself.

le Petite Posh - Onesie and Tutu

The Outfit

Custom Onesie (name and number) and Tutu from le Petite Posh on Etsy $50.95

Paper 'n Peonies - Pink & Mint Floral Birthday Invitation

The Invitations

Pink and Mint Floral Birthday Invitation from Paper n’ Peonies on Etsy $15

I had them printed at Staples for $19. Right now they have an offer to save 20% off Cards and Invitations with coupon code 85067. I used the create your own 5×7 one-sided portrait cards. It only took about 10 minutes and they did a beautiful job.

Capture

The Flowers

I bought two bouquets from a local florist, broke them down into smaller bouquets, and picked out some roses to decorate the cake. I ended up piecing the remaining flowers together for a full bouquet, too. They were lovely. So, so lovely.

Teleflora Cotton Candy Bouquet – Standard Size –  $32.95

Teleflora This Magic Moment Bouquet – $47.95

AnnasFirstBirthdayTablescape

The Table

I used a 90×132 White Economy Polyester Tablecloth I bought from LinenTablecloth for $5.18. They have lots of other sizes and their prices cannot be beat. Along with that, I used a Burlap Runner I picked up at Walmart for $8.

From here, I dotted 10″ Wilton Paper Doilies ($2 at Walmart.com – cheaper than in store) along the runner on either side of the Wood Slice Cake Stand I bought at Sur La Table for $59.95. They have other beautiful complimentary Wood Slice Serveware, too – coasters make nice bases for the votive candle holders.

And since someone is sure to ask what I did with it, so I want to point out that you’ll see my Pioneer Woman Timeless Beauty 10″ Cake Stand in some pictures, but we didn’t end up using it. It’s a Jadeite color green and I didn’t have coordinating jadeite pieces to tie it in.  I planned to do that, but was pressed for time.  It would have been lovely with the pink/mint theme I had going.

I placed my tiny girl’s special healthy 3 ingredient cake on my 9″ White Scalloped Cake Stand from Pier 1. $14.95.

Also dotted around the table, there are 5 Silver Mercury Glass Votive Candleholders I picked up at Amazon. I liked the assorted styles vs. buying 6 of the same. $39.95. I only used 5 because I didn’t like the globe style of the 6th.  I’m no decorator, but it didn’t seem to tie in well to me.

I also bought a lot of Milk Glass Vases and Compotes on eBay. $23. I used 2 Bud Vases, one regular Vase, and 3 Compotes.

For the remaining two bouquets, I used white acrylic paint on a couple of Quilted Ball Jelly Jars I already own.  After the paint dried, I rubbed them lightly with a piece of, get this, printer paper to give them a distressed look.  It worked just fine.  In all, I had 6 bouquets of flowers.

We didn’t do anything fancy for the plates.  I used Chinet.  We only needed white, so that worked out perfectly.

For the food (standard grill fare), I used the two sets of Better Homes & Gardens 2 piece Rectangular Serving Platters I already own – $22.20 each set.  Two Compotes were filled with fruit salad, and the other with plastic cutlery.

AnnasFirstCake

The Cake

This is one of the standard cakes I make for my kids’ birthday parties – Duncan Hines Delicate White Chocolate Cake.  I only follow the cake directions.  For the filling, I always use Henry & Henry Red Raspberry Filling.  The frosting is the classic Buttercream Icing recipe (below)  I’ve used for years.  I’m a big fan of white/raspberry wedding cakes, so I always make one of these cakes for either my son or daughter each year.

I used two 10 inch round cakes and two 8 inch round cakes and stacked them.   Underneath is a Wilton 12″ Silver Cake Platter and 12 inch Doily.  It wasn’t what I intended to use, but it was what I had on hand and it coordinated with the votives.

Buttercream Icing

Ingredients

  • 1 stick Crisco
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 tsp clear Vanilla Extract
  • 7-8 cups Confectioners Sugar, sifted. If you don't sift, use less.
  • 4 tbl Milk

Instructions

  1. Cream butter and Crisco. Add vanilla and milk. Blend. Begin adding confectioners sugar, one cup at a time, until it is dry, but not so dry that it's crumbly. Use immediately or cover bowl with a damp cloth.
  2. *For this cake, I assemble the layers with filling and use icing only between the stacked layers because it can't be seen, so it doesn't need to have any kind of finished look. Then I freeze the cake for several hours, so that when I frost it, it doesn't crumble with the heavier icing. After it's sufficiently frozen, I frosted the cake. The icing will freeze somewhat. That's ok. After frosting it somewhat smoothly, I run the cake spatula under hot water and smooth the frosting on the cake for a satiny finish. Granted, I'm no professional, but it looks perfect for a rustic theme when I'm done.
http://dontmakemenuts.com/2016/06/baby-girls-first-birthday-party/

The entire party cost a total of around $350 + the cost of food and beverages we typically incur for any party we have. It was so worth every penny.  I’m going to dry some of the flowers and keep the flower from her skirt for her to use as her something old, maybe, when she gets married.  Tears.

Happy Birthday, my sweet, precious, and beautiful, Anna Banana.

Inspired by Kara’s Party Ideas.

Spring Vacation

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Hi all!

My family and I are going on a short vacation (starting today!) so I wanted to let you know that a few things won’t get done this week.

1.)  No “Best of” drugstore deals of the week (5/15-5/21).

2.)  Full matchups won’t be posted for the drugstores this weekend (5/22-5/28).

Early next week, I’ll post an extended version of the Best of the Drugstore deals that’ll have more matchups than usual – somewhere between full matchups and the best of post.

In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!  I’ll be taking lots of pictures of the beautiful scenery for you and I’ll post them in the next couple of weeks!

 

 

What’s New: Our Latest Addition!

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AE

Our Tiny Girl (the day after she was born)

 

Hello friends! As you may know, we were expecting a wee one last month. Well, she’s here and that’s why things are very quiet on the blog. At 41, I’m (somewhat) smart enough to know what comes first and I can tell you that it’s not a bunch of limited time deals and recipes. It’s the first smile, first hug, first finger squeeze, and first snuggle of my last baby. As I always say, I’m sure you understand. You always have and I appreciate your loyal readership more than you can possibly know.

My tiny girl was born on June 12th, so she’s just over one month old! And what a joy she is! She’s a wonderful, tiny slice of heaven. We absolutely adore her. So with that, I’ll be signing off for the most part for the next few weeks. I have many, many more snuggles to soak up.  The days are already passing so very quickly.

OIT: One Year Anniversary

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OIT One Year Anniversary

 

We just passed the one year anniversary of my son’s graduation from peanut OIT.    That means it’s time for another update!  But before I tell you how things are going, I just want to dump out my stream-of-consciousness because, well, I really need to.  I’ve been too quiet for too long.

If you’re the parent of a child with food allergies, particularly nut allergies, I don’t need to tell you that it’s a scary time.  So many spices, seasonings, bread products, and many other items are being recalled for cross-contamination with both peanut and tree nut products.  It seems we can’t escape it at the moment and I think it’s safe to say that the full extent of it is still likely unknown.

I mean, we already know that making our own food from scratch is (more often than not) the best way to go to know exactly what’s in it, but sometimes…sigh…it’s nice to have a little convenience, too.  Right?  I know.  I really do.

And sometimes, like right now, even cooking from scratch with trusted brands isn’t always safe either.

I don’t know if this truly adds to any heightened anxiety about the general situation overall.  Plenty of manufacturers do not label for cross-contamination because they’re not required to do so by law.  Generally speaking, the most basic act of eating is a risk if you aren’t familiar with a manufacturers labeling practices.   It’s a very scary way to live.  My son and I have both suffered from some officially diagnosed elements of PTSD because of it.   Constant fight or flight.  Constant vigilance.  Constant fear of unknown.  Isolation for safety.

I have not forgotten any of this, but we have both moved on.  My son?  He can’t really conjure up what it feels like to be in that place anymore.  He just isn’t there.  He isn’t afraid.  He’s funny.  He tells really great, witty jokes.  He rarely gets angry anymore.  The only pressure he has now is self-inflicted due to his Type A-ness and deep desire to do well academically.

And now that we’re seeing all of these recalls, I will say that I’m very grateful that my son can eat any of the peanut cross-contaminated items and nothing will happen.  Nothing.  That’s where the rubber meets the road for me and OIT.  It’s not about eating peanuts all day, all the time, whenever.  It’s peace of mind my family can’t find anywhere else.

Peace.  Psalm 34 has been huge for me in dealing with this, by the way.   For heaven’s sake, don’t assume it’s the only one, though.  I’m more than familiar with most of these.   I have to say that I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life striving to have peace and believing the promises of God for it.  Really and truly believing without any doubt.   Perhaps surprisingly, that’s not terribly hard for me.  God hasn’t always answered my prayers exactly the way I want, but He has answered them.  I don’t know.  I’m just profoundly blessed.  I don’t know what else to say about that, really.  I would be here all day.  I’m very grateful.  It makes me cry.

I don’t know where that comes from exactly, but I think it has something to do with the fact that I didn’t have peace as a child.   My father had cancer off-and-on for as long as I can remember.  From the time I was a little girl.  Constant flux.  Constant emotional turmoil.  Instability.  My mother had a few heart attacks when I was in high school.  I was certain that I would be an orphan by the time I graduated.  I was very afraid of that.

In my life, as a result, I have avoided any unstable situation like the plague.  Stable. Stable. Stable.  Peace. Peace. Peace.  It may as well be my mantra, even today, because those events absolutely shaped the person I’ve become.    It’s also one piece of the puzzle that drives me to always believe there is a solution to most every problem.  Problems = instability.  Must. find. solutions.  Including food allergies.  It’s part of what led us to OIT.  So, all of this to say that it’s a small part of what got us to the place we are today.  Just a piece.  Peace.

And in a somewhat similar vein (stream of consciousness and all), when I started my blog years ago, I planned to only post nut-free recipes.  For the most part, I’ve adhered to this.  There are very few instances where I did not and I don’t feel good about that, to tell you the truth.  That’s why I’ve decided to get back to sharing only recipes that are nut-free.  After all, they’re what I make most even though my son went through OIT for his peanut allergy.  I’ve just never been a big fan of nuts (except hazelnuts, that is), so they’re really not  a part of my daily, weekly or even monthly cooking.   So, among the other things I mentioned, this has been on my mind a lot in the last few months.

During my recent move-induced hiatus, I had a chance to take a look, from a distance, at our blog.  What it has become.  What it was supposed to be.  Where it’s going.  In that hard look, I can safely say that part of me has felt very disconnected from it.  Since my son finished peanut OIT and that cloud was lifted, things changed.  Considerably.  And so did much of this blog…like the inclusion of non-nut-free recipes.   I mean, the blog title alone, while multi-faceted in my case, is largely about my son and his allergies and how they’ve impacted our lives.  They still do, but the peanut allergy is more like background noise versus a blaring megaphone of possible impending doom.  There is a balance somewhere in all of this and I’m certain I’ll find it….since I’m solution oriented and all.  In the meantime,  expect only nut-free…except me.  I’m the only nut allowed on this blog.

As for my son, he takes his daily dose of 8 peanuts in the form of peanut butter with some chocolate chips and that’s it.  If he doesn’t eat enough before his dose or he’s getting sick, has a particularly stressful day or his seasonal allergies aren’t well controlled, etc.  he’ll have some mild symptoms – sneezing, nose/lip itching, sometimes coughing, and we give Benadryl.  I don’t have to do that nearly as often as I did before.  I thank God for that.   It’s quite stressful, too, in its own way.

Also, now that he’s something of an OIT expert, he is enjoying talking with other kids who are considering OIT and scared about what might happen.   He is enjoying helping people.  Yep, you know what THAT does for THIS Momma.  It’s everything – the cornerstone of who I try to be.

So there.  That’s my update, yes, in a nutshell.  It is one of my favorite dumb puns after all.

From Fear to Fun: OIT Maintenance Update (Peanut Allergy Treatment – 6 Months)

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Mackinaw CityLake Huron Beach - Dont Make Me Nuts

 

Whenever I’m asked how my son is doing with his peanut allergy treatment “because I haven’t said anything in a while”, I always have the same answer, “Quiet is good.”  Unfortunately, I don’t have a strong tendency to remind you (or myself) when things are going extremely well.  They are, though.  They really, really are.

When he finished treatment back in January, I promised to keep you posted about all the things that have changed for us.  Since we hit the six month mark yesterday, it seems to be a good time to take a look back at those six months and see exactly what is different now.  I think I remember most things, but it’s all starting to meld and blend together.  We have NO restrictions on peanuts, so it’s getting a little difficult for me to point out all of the things that would have panicked me before.   If you can imagine, I just don’t think about that.  I thought that would never leave me, but it has.   All I can say is that I hope and pray that my family never has to go back to that place.   I DO remember the fear and terror all too well.

But before I tell you all of the things we’ve done in the last 6 months since he graduated from his OIT program,  I had better explain a little bit more about OIT for those of you who are  new around here and have no idea what I’m talking about!

My son has a severe peanut allergy.  In April 2013, he decided that he wanted to try OIT (Oral Immunotherapy) to desensitize him to peanuts.  Well, it wasn’t quite THAT simple, but that’s the short version.  In any case, OIT is done by an allergist using a very controlled protocol that allows the patient to increase his/her tolerance to peanuts (or another allergen) by initially determining the maximum amount  of the allergen that can be tolerated and increasing what can be ingested and tolerated over time until a specific amount is reached.  In my son’s case, he ultimately ate 24 peanuts in the peanut challenge at the end of his protocol and currently eats a single dose of 2 teaspoons of peanut butter each day to maintain his tolerance.  And what we think is the best part of the specific protocol our doctor follows?  He can eat as many peanuts as he wants now.   No, I am not kidding.

Now, I want to reiterate that this is a specific protocol that not every doctor who provides OIT uses.  Some have only the goal of helping the allergic patient become ‘bite-proof.’  That means that he or she can tolerate taking a bite of something that has the allergen in it.  You may wonder why anyone would bother with this, but someone who has multiple food allergies could be eating let’s say 8 peanuts, 8 pecans, 8 macadamia nuts, 8 walnuts, and on and on, each day, after finishing the treatment.  Well, that isn’t really reasonable.   However, for a single allergy, or maybe peanuts, wheat, and eggs,  something like that with an end goal like ours,  it may be more doable.    Of course, each case and person is unique with other conditions (asthma and/or other health concerns) that require individual assessment.   I am not a health care professional and I am certainly not giving medical advice.  I am simply providing you with additional information to consider.  🙂

With that in mind, here are some things we’ve done and/or eaten since my son has completed OIT that we would not have even considered  before.  I have to say that these would  have been absolutely panic attack worthy on my end.  And while this list may seem oddly detailed, you can’t really appreciate what is different if I just say “vacation” or “Chinese food.”     You may also be surprised to see that most of these things don’t contain peanuts, but they’re definitely or very possibly cross-contaminated foods.  My son doesn’t like peanuts, so he doesn’t really eat them outside of his dose.  And that’s ok.  He does love the freedom to eat all sorts of cross-contaminated foods whenever he wants and go wherever he wants.  That has meant more to him than the ability to eat peanuts.

Food
Chinese Food ~ That’s a big one.  (Egg Rolls, Spring Rolls, Sweet/Sour Shrimp, Sweet/Sour Chicken, Fried Rice, Pepper Steak, Beef & Broccoli, Won Ton Soup, Polynesian Beef, Beef with Peapods, and probably more, too)
Red Robin
National Coney
Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill (This is his favorite restaurant.)
Thai Food  (Crab Rangoon, Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Pad Thai (contains peanuts!), Pad See-iew)
Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
Dairy Queen (Blizzards, Cones, Shakes, Coney Dogs)
Raisinets
Twix
M&M’s
Milky Way
3 Musketeers
Kit Kat
He doesn’t eat these, but we have Chunky and Reese’s Pieces candy around occasionally because I love them.  I never kept peanuts or cross contaminated food in the house before.  If something was ever accidentally bought, I would immediately bag it, put it in the trash, and take the trash bag to the garage.  One step further?  Instead of waiting for trash pickup, I made my husband take that particular trash bag to work with him the next day.  I didn’t even want my son to walk by peanuts on his way to get his bike.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a whole lot here, but these are the big ones.

Vacation (We have not gone on vacation in 11 years – most of those years because it just hasn’t been safe.)

Mackinaw City/St. Ignace/Mackinac Island (7/2014) – If you have a child with nut allergies (or allergies, generally, as there are horses everywhere), the island may be one of the scariest places on the planet.  The whole main road is filled with the smell of nut laden fudge and candy.  There are, literally, shops everywhere.  We would never have ventured here before his treatment.  Well, guess what?  We not only went,  but we bought some fudge!    We also ate out for lunch and dinner on each day of our 4 day trip at  8 different restaurants – only one was a chain restaurant, and it was Cracker Barrel at that.  I point this out because most  families who contend with food allergies avoid non-chain restaurants due to the greater possibility of cross contamination.  Cracker Barrel is an allergy minefield, too.  They will not guarantee their food isn’t cross contaminated.

Now, this will surely seem strange, but we sat on benches.  Random benches.  I mean, I was always worried about the possibility of traces of nuts all over everything before.   We wouldn’t sit under trees for fear that a squirrel had dropped peanut bits all over.  We never touched any handrails anywhere.   We never sat at picnic tables.  This time around, the kids sat on benches, ate at picnic tables, and leaned over rails to look at things.  In the museums, we touched every hands-on display they had for the kids to explore.   I didn’t think twice about it.  Neither did they.

Holland/Grand Rapids/Grand Haven (5/2014)

The lack of guard rails around the lighthouses and piers scared me more than anything else on the entire trip.  I don’t have much to add about this particular trip over the other because it was exactly the same in terms of touching everything and eating out for nearly every meal.  It was, however, the first time I let my son swim in a pool that may have nut traces.   I should point out that the risk of a reaction from a chlorine filled community pool is rather remote, but I didn’t take any chances at all before.  My, how things have changed in such a short time.

Reading this over, I’m a little disgusted with myself that I didn’t keep better track of all the things we’ve done, because I know there are more, but we’ve been busy!  We’ve been doing, living, and enjoying every single day.  Sometimes, when you’re in the midst of it, you just enjoy it.  I’m not about to miss a moment of this.   Life is normal now.  Normal is quiet.  And quiet is good.

(Final note:  I am not a doctor and OIT is not for everyone.  If  you’re interested in pursing OIT, please educate yourself about the specific protocols used by each doctor.  They do vary, and being able to eat peanuts ‘whenever’ isn’t the end goal of every protocol.  If you need assistance, please feel free to comment here or contact me and  I will do whatever I can to steer you in the right direction.  To learn more about our fabulous allergist, please visit OITcenter.com.  If you want to learn more about OIT, please join the OIT 101 Facebook pageClick here to read more posts in my From Fear to Fun series.)

 

My Weekend Trip: Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island, and St. Ignace

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MackinacBridge

We went “up north” this past weekend, as we Michiganders say, and stayed in Mackinaw City at the Bridge Vista Beach Hotel with an indoor waterpark for the kiddies.    The sunset looked like this every night we were there.  Lovely.

 

Kidsonthebeach

 

The water was surprisingly shallow on our beach, which was the only one on the strip, I might add.  The rest of the coastline wasn’t cleared beach.  I think they must have trucked in sand or something because people were WAY far out and it was only waist high.  No, I wasn’t one of them.  I’m not that brave.  After all, it is Lake Huron, and I have great respect for ALL water.  We had so much fun, though.  My crazy kids.  This particular evening event wasn’t planned.  They just decided to go to the beach after dinner.  One. More. Time.  Who am I to split hairs?  It’s only water.   It’s only bargain clothing.  They’ll only be 5 and 9 once.

 

 

MaggyStIgnace

 

The next morning, we took the ferry to Mackinac Island and it was the first time both of my children have been on a boat.  My tiny girl looked around for a while and then closed her eyes and started to sing.   She sang songs most of the way there.   She enjoyed that ride so very much.

On the island, we took a taxi to the fort, watched some re-enactments, and saw a canon firing.    Should you ever visit  Mackinac Island, you might want to consider a taxi vs. a tour.  The taxi to the fort was scenic (both up and down) and cost much less than a $120+ 1 hour tour of the island.    That is, if you don’t want to hike the hill to get up there or anywhere else, which you’re certainly welcome to do.  We brought my 81 year old Mom along, so a taxi was a must.

MuseumofOjibwaCulture

 

In St. Ignace, we had breakfast at the Hillside House Restaurant, visited the Mystery Spot, and spent a good deal of time at the Museum of Ojibwa Culture.  Surprisingly, these few things took most of the day, so we headed back to the hotel for a swim and more time on the beach.   For as little as we seemed to do, we thoroughly enjoyed our time together, and the weather was phenomenal.

What else matters, right?

Well, there is one problem.  All the deals I had ready for you didn’t get posted.  Meh, it’s ok.  We’ll pick up and move on from here.  After all, it’s summer.

So with that, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled program!  Well, sort of…

My Mother’s Day Weekend!

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 Holland Harbor Light 2

 

I’ve been gone with my family this weekend!  Before I get back to work, I want to share a few pictures with you and tell you about our trip.

We originally planned to go to the Tulip Time Festival and the Nelis Dutch Village in Holland, Michigan.  That didn’t quite work out.  We went to the carnival in downtown Holland, but never saw any impressive fields of tulips.  Now, if you’re a fellow Michigander, you can likely tell me exactly where they are.  Haha! We sure didn’t see them!  We did enjoy touring downtown Holland, though.

So, the carnival is what we decided to do on Friday after we ended up at the Boardwalk Deli in Saugatuck, a wonderfully beautiful place, by the way.  I regret not having dinner in that town.  Ahem, I should point out that we were actually trying to go to the Boardwalk in Grand Haven to see the lighthouse and Musical Fountain.  Siri got it wrong and my husband didn’t catch it.  Neither did I.  Mom, who came along on the trip, didn’t know what was happening either.   We were all completely taken with the scenery.

The kids had a fabulous time, though.  I mean, a carnival before Memorial Day?  Get outta town!  That’s just not typical around these parts.  They were thrilled and had a blast.

Capture

Photo Credit: Grand Haven Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Saturday was a completely different story.  We started out early and made it to Grand Haven.  After all, it wasn’t THAT far from where we were staying – about 20ish minutes.  This is a MUST SEE location.  We’re all ready to move here.  We walked through the town including the lovely Central Park, where the kids smelled all of the tulips.  We shopped, ate lunch, and  stopped at the Grand Haven State Park.  It was cold, though, so we decided not to stay very long.   Work crews were putting together the play structures for the kids, but the swings were available.  That made my daughter happy, momentarily, before she got too cold.  On the other hand, I had a decent view of the lighthouse, but I couldn’t get close enough to take a clean shot.  It was just too windy and cold for me.   Plus, it’s scary.  Why?  Well, I love the water, but I have a healthy respect for it after nearly drowning twice in my youth.   That said, I want you to take a close look at  that picture above, and look for a rail of some kind.  Don’t see one?  Yep, that’s because there isn’t one.

I have a 5 year old.

I have a 9 year old.

My 9 year old is like me – apprehensive and cautious about everything.  I don’t worry much about him.  My daughter, on the other hand, would walk right down to that edge and fall or jump in.   There. is. no. guard. rail. of. ANY. kind.  And my daughter is completely convinced she’s a skilled swimmer.   She routinely scares the life out of me.  You have no idea.  I wouldn’t take her there for anything.  And if you have a risk-taker like me, I wouldn’t advise you to take yours there either.   Even with the best life jacket, the water is so cold right now that….well, I don’t even want to venture down that other slippery slope.

But, you know me, I worked in the pharmaceutical field for MANY years before becoming a stay-at-home Mom.  I view everything through the medical lens of potential danger.

Holland Harbor Light

After leaving Grand Haven, we decided to venture down to the Holland State Park to view this beauty – the Holland Harbor Light.  And yes, the same is true here in terms of danger.  There is a rail, but it has breaks in it.  It doesn’t exist in other places, so this is not a safe location for little ones at all.   It is so beautiful, though, and  warm by comparison to Grand Haven – and it’s not that far from it.   I’m sure you’re wondering how this is possible.  Yeah, I wondered that, too.  My husband said it was because it was later in the day.  One hour, my friends, if that.  It was one hourish later.  The shift in temperature was at LEAST 10 degrees.  So when we got home yesterday, I did some digging.  I’ll tell you about that in a minute.

Now, both beaches have this wonderful sand.  Oh my, it is lovely.  When we got to the HSP, the work crews were removing the snow fences, bulldozing the banks, and flattening the sand.  We had to climb over the ridges to get to the water.  For my 81 year old mother, this was a bit challenging, but she is the most determined person I know.  I cannot tell you how nice it was for all of us to be there for this.  There were just a few people here, and we had a wonderful opportunity to just ‘be’, enjoy the warmth, and watch them prepare for the summer season.    My daughter and I picked up shells and pebbles that had not yet been churned under by thousands of bare feet.   This is a memory I will cherish always.

Capture

Photo Credit: NOAA.gov

 

And once again, because I spent too many years in college, I went hunting for a reason WHY it was so much warmer in Holland.  Well, take a look at that dark brown area on the left of the mitten in the above map.  The white dot is the Holland State Park.  The arrows show the general current direction in the lake that corresponds to the wind direction.  In Holland, this is generally West to East.  In the Grand Haven area (the lighter brown area just north of the dark brown area), it can be West to East or Northwest to Southeast.  I can tell you that the wind in Grand Haven was out of the Northwest – and colder.  The variability is astounding if you’re not familiar with the area, which I am not.  I was only acutely aware of the extreme difference in temperature.  And while I’m at it,  I’d also like to point out that the very dark brown area in the Holland State Park corresponds to the number of current related accidents.   You can read more about that here.  Of course, (unlike me) keep in mind that this park sees nearly 2 million visitors each year, and that this chart represents an 11 year span of time.

My Guys at Holland State Park

We spent the entire afternoon at the Holland State Park, and it wasn’t long enough.    This is my husband and my son walking along the beach.   My daughter, in the blue shirt, is off to the right feeding a duck.  The lovely people seated next to her gave her a small piece of bread.  My girlie has never been so close to a duck.  As usual, she wanted to hug it and hold it.  For her, that was the highlight of the day.  For me, it was being with my most favorite people, and being able to share this Mother’s Day weekend experience with them.     I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I can’t wait for our next adventure.

What's New With…Me: My Christmas Note to You!

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One of the last pictures of our holiday session – after many “one heel” spins. 🙂

Early yesterday evening, I asked my son what he wanted most for Christmas.  Fishing, of course, to be sure I had bought what he wanted.  Somewhat to my surprise, he said, “Nothing.”  “All I want is a ton of snow, so I can go sledding with Daddy, Molly & M.”    I was a bit taken aback, yet not.   And all of a sudden, a haphazard mix of emotions effortlessly roiled to the surface.  Part of me was sickened that I would ask such a ridiculous question.   Part of me was proud that my son’s family means more to him than material things.  Part of me was so very grateful to God that he’s developing the character I hope and pray continues.   And many more feelings I struggle to pin down correctly.

And in his response, I felt my internal compass return.  After many long days and nights working here, I needed that.  It has been a very busy couple of months for all of us.  And it also let me know that it is time for me to take a  much needed break until the new year.

For the next few days, I’ll be putting together cookie trays for our Christmas Eve family party and preparing to decorate gingerbread houses before bed on Christmas Eve.  In between all of this, kisses will drop like rain on tiny blonde heads.  Any activity will be interrupted to sing along to “The Grinch Song” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”  Oh, and we’re not allowed to speak when “Carol of the Bells” is on, my son’s favorite.   We’ll pen thank you notes to Santa.  Carrots will be carefully chosen for the reindeer.

And for you, my friends, my hope is that you will enjoy this time as much as I do.  That your days ahead are filled with blessings.  That you find happiness in the things that cost nothing.  That you find great joy in living.

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to say that that I’m so grateful for you – for your prayers, inspiration, encouragement, and participation.  Truly.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.  What I do here is nothing without YOU.  Thank you for being a part of this journey with me.

Many blessings,
Melissa

Note: Store match-ups will continue to be posted during the break, as will all routine posts (restaurant, etc.) 

What’s New With…Me!: I’m Going Home…Sort Of!

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If you’re new around here, you may not recall any previous posts like this.  I don’t do them often.  But since my health ordeal last year, I do get questions about how I’m feeling.  Well, I’ll get you up to speed on that before I tell you anything else.

I’m smack in the middle of a three month Prilosec trial after loads of tests that showed nothing.  At the end of the trial, I’ll be weaned off to see if I have further problems.  Given the way I feel today underneath that purple blanket, I’ll be put back on it or an alternating regimen of Prilosec and Zantac.  But for now, I can eat again.  I’m not afraid to exercise for fear that I’ll go through another starvation period and lose too much weight.   Life is starting to look consistently normal.  I’m grateful for any victory, and this is a big one, but I’ll continue to pray for healing.

Now, I’ve got some even better news!
Last week, I decided to go Groupon hunting for you.   That’s nothing new.  But when I did, I saw something extraordinary…well, to me anyway.  I happened across a Groupon for the Historic Hale Springs Inn in Rogersville, Tennessee.   I was frozen.   The only thing this side of  my immediate family that can tear me away from working on great deals is my family history.

I looked at the little snippet of a map embedded in that page and immediately noted that the Register of Deeds was within walking distance of the Inn.   I didn’t just want to see this place.  I needed to see this place.  I’ve always wanted to be in this place.  For just one moment.  For the last 15 years.

“15 years?”, you ask,  “That’s not very long.”  No, it sure isn’t, but we didn’t even know my Mitchell’s were here until 15 years ago.  I found them.  My mother had been searching long before I was born.  When I was a very young girl,  I have many memories of  her hauling me to libraries to do research.  She never stopped, but did slow down as the years rolled by.  Back in those days, I never paid much attention to what she was doing.  Then all of a sudden, shortly after my father passed away, I realized I knew so little about him.    Perhaps more sadly, in the last 20 years since his passing, I recall even less.  Nevertheless,  his passing started me on a journey to learn about my family that will last the rest of my life, and that journey is a gift.  Believe me.  It has touched and changed me in ways nothing else has, can or ever will.  And part of that journey involves Hawkins and Greene Counties in Tennessee, where my Mitchell’s, Pickering’s, Malone’s, Carter’s, and others lived for nearly 100 years after the Revolutionary War.

I’ve been to East Cape Girardeau, Cairo, Anna, and Thebes in Illinois looking for them.  I’ve been to Cape Girardeau, Burfordville, Lutesville, Marble Hill, Malden, and Senath in Missouri looking for them.  I’ve also been to  St. Francis, Piggott and Rector in Arkansas…what else?  Looking for them.

With all of this swirling around in my head, I sat and stared at the picture of that Inn, shaking my head at the name.  Hale.  Mary Ann Hale Gray Johnson Pickering Mitchell is my third great grandmother.

There were three days left to purchase, so I decided to leave that window open (in more ways than one) and move on to something else.  After all, I’m not sitting on a gold mine for such a trip.  I’m not even sitting on a penny for this trip.  Haha…

Well, I looked at it again the following day.  And again the following day.  Then because I couldn’t let it go, I decided to tell the Facebook group that I started a few years ago –  East Tennessee Genealogy, of course.  😉

And on the last day, with just a few hours remaining, I bought two nights.   I’ve yet to come up with a third night since I’m holding out for The General Morgan Inn in Greene County, and it’s fully booked.    Even without the third night (which I’ll find somewhere), I will be in Hawkins County with my family for my birthday.  Most importantly, I’ll be with my mother (God willing), who turns 80 this year.

You already know how I feel about my mother.   I can hardly wait to take a picture of her by the Nolichucky River.  Or somewhat near it if it’s scary.  Haha…I’ll caption that picture this way, “You see that hill?  Yep, just over that hill and that other hill about, oh say,  2 miles off is the ROARING Nolichucky River.”

Below is a biographical snippet about my great grandfather, Enos Mitchell.  It was featured in the Premium Messenger Album, an (I believe) annual publication about current ministers of the day.  My son’s middle name is Mitchell specifically to honor this man.

 

I haven’t figured out what to do with the site while I’m gone, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.  Even if I don’t, I know you’ll all be here waiting to hear all about my trip.  I can hardly wait for October.

It’s That Time Of Year Again…

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And that means I’ll be taking a break to spend some quality time with my family.  For the rest of the day, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on my cookie trays for our Christmas Eve family party and preparing to decorate gingerbread houses before bed tonight.  In between, kisses will drop like rain on tiny blonde heads.  Any activity will be interrupted to dance to Jingle Bell Rock.    Notes for Santa will be penned.  Carrots will be carefully chosen for the reindeer.  Oh, and Santa has requested a hamburger.  ~Darn that phone call from Santa mistake!

I love Christmas more than you can imagine and surprisingly more with each passing year.  And as is typical for me, it is early in the morning and I’m already tearing up thinking about my son.  A couple of days ago, he was thoroughly convinced he’d gotten some kind of magic dust in his eye from our elf.  Innocence.  It breaks me every time.  Well, that and the way my daughter says ‘tow-man’ for ‘snowman’.  Everything that begins with an ‘s’  is a ‘t’.  Snail=tail.  Snack=tack.   My sweet babies.

And for you, my friends, my hope is that you will enjoy this time as much as I do.  That your days ahead are filled with blessings.  That you find happiness in the things that cost nothing.  That you find great joy in living.

And because I try not to bury you with this all the time, I can finally say (again) that I’m so grateful for each and every one of you – for your prayers, inspiration, encouragement and participation.  Truly.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  What I do here is nothing without YOU.  Thank you for being a part of this journey with me.

Wishing all the best to you and yours,
Melissa