Tag Archives: toddler

Detroit Metro Parks (and other places to skip stones)

Sometimes you just need to get outside and get immersed in nature. Deep forest, marshlands, estuaries, lakes, water fowl and everything that goes along with it. Without traveling more than 30 minutes from Greektown, you can find peace and tranquility in the form of Metro Parks.

Detroit Metro Parks are as diverse as the city itself. Many have Nature Centers with turtle tanks and local wildlife hides for show and tell. We’ve attended many pre-registered events for a meager $3.00 that gave B inspiration for weeks of imaginative play.

There are paved running trails that are stroller friendly and more rugged trails lined with mulch. Whether you like a colorful playscape or a deep, dark forest, there is something for everyone!

One of our favorites is Lake Erie Metro Park because of the children’s play area and tiny beach nearby to throw rocks into the lake (B’s favorite pastime). This past Saturday morning was absolutely gorgeous weather and the park was the perfect place to stretch our legs. We packed a picnic lunch and spent a few hours climbing, swinging, digging, sliding and skipping.

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Another favorite of ours for toddler-sized nature walks is Oakwoods Metro Park where the 700ft. nature trail surrounding the Nature Center is perfect for B’s interests, legs and attention span.

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A balcony overlooking the river/estuary was perfect for skipping stones with B.

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The path was perfect for exploring. We searched for different sizes, shapes and colors of leaves for our seasonal nature table. We found leaves, insects, spiders and birds to observe quietly. We collected acorns, chestnuts and bark that had fallen around the trail. It was punctuated enough for B and diverse enough to hold the adults interest for the morning.

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Do you have a favorite spot in nature that you love to spend family time?

A is for A P P L E

Apples, apple cider, apple cider slushies, apple cider doughnuts, apple butter, apple cake, applesauce, apple pie… I felt like the character Bubba from the movie Forest Gump, except no shrimp! I want B to know where his food comes from. Since he eats about five apples a week, I want him to know they grow on trees and not believe they somehow form from the big fruit bowl on our kitchen counter.

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All told, it took about thirty minutes for my two and a half year old to pick a half BUSHEL of johnagold, red delicious, macintosh and fuji apples. That’s about fifty apples. All from the trees themselves, any he picked off the ground were rejected from the bag (someone’s got to do quality control!). It seemed like that part should’ve taken longer.

Since we had driven an hour to get to the orchard and the weather was more Indian Summer than Autumn, we set out to see the rest of the sprawling orchard and seek out more toddler friendly fun.

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There were chickens to feed…

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Goats to be amused by…

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Cool, old tractors to explore…

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Apple cider AND apple cider doughnuts made it home with us, barely

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We each enjoyed (thoroughly) an apple cider doughnut and a shared apple cider slushie (which I never knew existed, new Fall craving MUST HAVE) while browsing their amply stocked apple-everything country store.

It was a relaxing, windows-down kind of day. All the way home we talked about goats, chickens, tractors and trees. We also talked about how yummy a fresh baked apple pie would be for dessert that night. When we arrived home, we set out on the task of doing just that.

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Rollllllllllll it…

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Pat it…

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and give it a milk and sugar wash (old bakery trick)…

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Mark it with an “A” (not a “B” as in the nursery rhyme) for apple, then put it in the oven for my family and me!!!!

Erie Orchards was definitely worth the trip for all of the family fun it provided. No fees to park or play, just pay for the apples you pick. On weekends there are pony rides, hay rides, a pumpkin shaped bounce house and always an act performing (see their events page). I prefer the quiet peace of a weekday morning, personally. Bathrooms are port-a-johns only, but some of the nicest I’ve ever encountered. We shall be back!

Have you been to an orchard to pick apples with your family? What are your family Fall traditions…

Mai Tiki Wanna Playa?!

Beach, bonfires, brisket and Paul Bunyan combined with Tiki huts, sand volleyball and waves… am I still in Michigan?!? Yes, about three hours north of Detroit (give or take traffic). We took a little family weekend getaway to Oscoda, MI and had a BLAST!

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It was pleasantly Autumn weather in northern Michigan. The water was chilly, but not polar bear and refreshing to feel the waves lapping at your feet and soothing your soul.

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We tossed around a frisbee, zipped down a twelve foot high metal slide (it was AWESOME) and tried our hand at some beach volleyball.

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The resort is made up of vibrantly colored little cottages on the beach where you can step outside your front door and stick your toes in the sand. Mother Nature put on an awe-inspiring light show at sunset. (We took this picture with our iPhone, imagine it in living color, insane!)

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A mix of sun and clouds wasn’t exactly August beach weather, but we were happy to play in the sand, building and demolishing sand castles. Sand toys, balls and frisbees were all available for free to guests.

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The town hosted a Paul Bunyan Festival the weekend of our trip (September 20-22, 2013) with bountiful sights to see! A doggie costume contest, a brisket and ribs contest (yum), a wood carving contest (think chainsaws and bear statues) and plenty of carnival food and rides. There was even a real life Paul Bunyan giving free axe throwing lessons, now THAT was a sight to see!

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There was a huge wooden slab target surrounded by massive hay bales to arrest any wayward axe tosses. Most people landed the target with no problem. Paul Bunyan’s favorite advice to give is often something I say to my two and a half year old, “finesse not force”. We sat and watched men and women of all ages and physical stature give the axe throwing a try, it was definitely something I will not soon forget.

Resort Details:
Mai Tiki Resort
3322 N. US Route 23
Oscoda, MI 48570
989-739-9971

We liked:

The beach

The kids pay area

The full kitchen

There was a bonfire on the beach every night with wood and chairs provided

The box fan in the unit (there is central air, but the fan helped as a noise buffer for our toddlers bedroom)

The charcoal BBQ grill for each unit

Free wifi

Flat screen TV with cable that also accepted a DVD player (movies for our toddler to watch as needed, it rained for about two hours one day).

We brought:

Food to grill and snacks to munch

Marshmallows and sticks to roast them
(There is a Walmart, other chain stores and mom & pop shops within a few miles north and south of the resort to buy whatever you need)

Charcoal and lighter fluid

Paper towels, plates and napkins because there is no dishwasher

Kitchen towels, bath towels AND beach towels (we will also bring tupperware for food storage and our own sponges for dish washing next time)

Oh yes, we brought beer and wine too

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Sure, I would have liked an updated decor with tile floors and new everything, but for the price and locale, it really was a good value. I can appreciate that sand and lake weather can beat down the exterior and interior of a place more than I could imagine, but the manager/owner seemed to take care with heart. There was always a friendly helpful answer to every question we had both before and during our stay. Even when we locked ourselves out, he was kind and gentle with helping us back in.

We really liked our stay and would go back again.

In no way did the resort compensate me to write this review, as always, these are just my opinions.

Where was your last weekend getaway?

Flying on a Tuesday

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Another beautiful day in Detroit. Seventy-seven degrees, slight breeze, sunny blue skies smiling down on everyone, it is a MUST to get down to the Detroit Riverfront before cool Autumn comes rolling in. The playscape is beautifully designed with parents and kids of all sizes in mind. Benches in both sun and shade, clean, lined trash bins and a spectacular backdrop.

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The perfect spot for swinging and sliding!

As we are still in full potty training mode, it was extra nice to be able to park within a few feet in the Rivard parking lot (free). We are still lugging our froggy potty around with us everywhere so B has a familiar spot to relieve himself. However, he did also use the public facilities here today, exercising his new found ability to pee standing up. The restrooms were clean and fully stocked. There was no kiddie potty like at schools or museums, but it was a public restroom that didn’t induce the gag reflex, always a good thing.

We played for about an hour and then headed over to visit Eastern Markets Tuesday vendors in Shed 2. Food trucks, live street performances and of course sampling of all the delicious jams, pickles, sweet breads and fruits. The smells and sounds are a treat for the senses and we always walk away with both our belly and our mind on FULL.

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So much to do! The staff at Eastern Market are amazing at inspiring and utilizing local talent giving creativity a direct pipeline to the lucky foot traffic twice a week.

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We even got to see the championship Detroit Waldorf School jump rope team in action! They performed some amazing feats and then opened it up for everyone to get a try. Totally cool.

What’s your favorite “last days of Summer” thing to do?

Light Catcher

We are attempting to do no reduced screen time and we found such a quick, easy, cute craft for these gloomy days at the Dollar store! Everything was included for $1.00. The paintbrush, paints and the light catcher.

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We popped open our learning tower, tossed on our apron, laid down a drop cloth/towel and set to creating.

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B loved getting messy!

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Amazingly, we finished our craft and the sun came out!


What are you doing with your little ones as you strive to reduce screen time?

Thunder Over Michigan

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Our first air show as a family was a hit! I hadn’t been to an air show in years and was happily surprised at how much they had to offer. Three generations of our family enjoyed a perfect weather day celebrating America.

Amazing planes from the last century parked on the Tarmac for all to see and TOUCH! Very cool for B! Then later, these same planes were started up (hello gas and fumes!) and flown through the sky with finesse.

My favorite was a re-enactment camp depicting accommodations, weaponry and tactical gear from each of the major American wars from the last century complete with veterans in their official uniforms to tell their war stories. Another surprise was a WWII battle re-enactment with cannon fire and an ambush by the Germans. It seemed to be a HUGE hit for the young boys ages 7-9 years old (even more so than the bouncy house area)!

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We brought a picnic of fruit, trail mix and PB&J sandwiches, a blanket, some folding chairs and enjoyed five hours of non-stop fun. B barely made it to the car before he fell asleep
(Very unlike him!) from the running around, sun and yes, bouncy houses. The Kid Zone was worth the trip in B’s opinion.

The real action was in the skies however, the aerobatic planes were incredible. Just watching from my spot on the ground made my stomach turn, I could only imagine actually being up there! AMAZING!!

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Deets:
Admission is FREE for kids 15 & under. Adults $35 but I bought a Living Social deal for half off plus a deal on parking (usually $15). All told I spent $77 for four adults and one child to park and enjoy. I felt like I got MORE than my money’s worth!

For additional fees you could take a ride in an actual plane or dine in air conditioned comfort in a special luxe tented gallery. We did spend $10 for an all day pass, versus $3 per jump, for B to jump in the bouncy houses, which, in my opinion was 100% worth it. There were also rock climbing, bungee swings, tennis and other kid-centered activities. I feel confident that any child or adult could find something to spark their interest here. The day was perfect enough, where even an indifferent teen could simply relax and soak up the sun while the family browsed around. There was certainly enough security, military and fire safety personnel present to put a parents mind at ease.

Food: Check their website for any changes but this year (2013) you could bring in anything that did not require a cooler. No alcohol or barbecues of course 🙂

No Smoking! They real reason was because the planes on the Tarmac were going in the air and were fully fueled up causing fumes that are extremely flammable. I just thought it was great to be at an outdoor event and not have to choke through clouds of smoke – blech!

Bathroom: Port-a-poetry’s only for the general admission folks. There were running water portable sinks to wash hands at every cluster and they weren’t disgusting (as far a port-a-potty’s go) . B got to use his first urinal, because there was no way I was going to try to balance my toddler over an open hole of excrement. I was impressed at his skill! Of course he let daddy take him potty after that.

Charitable: Proceeds from the event went to funding the Yankee Air Museum http://yankeeairmuseum.org/ and the bomber plant where the original “Rosie the Riveter” became a National hero.

Have you ever been to an air show?

Schmutz the Dog, our new favorite pet

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Schmutz the dog is our new favorite pet. He looks like our doggies, smells like our doggies, but lives in a book on the activity table. He’s inspired us to get bits and baubles from our craft trunk and create some of our own family portraits.

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Covering the table with our pirates booty of treasures we laid out the book for inspiration. Once we decided our base would be a paper plate we squirted glue where the necessary body parts would be adhered and discussed the function of those parts (eyes for seeing, nose for smelling, mouth for tasting). B was deep in thought as I started using scissors to cut strips from some yarn and ribbon.

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Voila! Our masterpieces!! (Sort of) I am still working on mine. We had a great talk about body parts, senses and buttons. B used his fine motor and decision making skills. I would say we made the best of this gloomy day…

The Stroller Crew Hits a Detroit Hot Spot

Moms, babies and toddlers love to get out and enjoy the sunshine. Eastern Market is the perfect place to do it, especially for the new Tuesday market. The Tuesday market is like the “best of” from the massive Saturday market, from my “mommy” perspective. I looove Saturdays at Eastern market for the sheer volume and amazing vibe, but I can barely weave my way through the crowd myself, let alone with a stroller!

You might not grab a Bloody Mary at Viviano’s with little ones in tow, but you’ll have your choice of locally sourced grass fed beef burgers with homemade buns at Ned’s food truck (totally cool converted airstream) with their farm fresh accouterment. Of course what kid doesn’t love macaroni and cheese?!? The Mac Shack has the most decadent options I’ve ever seen on this comfort food classic, a must-try.

Tuesdays market has all of my favorites. Coffee from the caboose cart, fresh leafy greens from Vang’s, made-that-morning bread and bouquets of gorgeous flowers to brighten any day.
We tasted artisanal cheese, strawberry rhubarb jam, kale chips, pickles and even had a go on the xylophone! You can’t get THAT at the zoo!
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If the little ones may ask for a cool treat on a sunny day, don’t deny them (or you). It doesn’t have to be a market day for you to enjoy Michigan’s own Hudsonville ice cream from Mootown Ice Cream shoppe. Try a double decker sundae, smoothie or even quesadillas!

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Grandma holding B while he tried his hand as a street performer.

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Bathroom details: Bringing a potty training toddler anywhere can be daunting. “Potty Breaks” are frequent and it’s important to know where the good potty spots are. I chose the bathroom in DeVries (formerly R. Hirt Jr.) which lies between Shed 2 and Viviano’s. Head to the back wall of their delicious shop for a one person private toilet which your stroller might actually fit into. Otherwise, it’s rural rest stop accommodations in the public stalls next to the Welcome Center in Shed 3.

Bonus: Shed 3 was open but not full of vendors like on a Saturday. It was an enclosed wide open safe space to let the toddlers run. There were some street performers from a Krav Maga studio which were pretty interesting. There was even a business making an attempt at a “kid zone” offering a bean bag toss and face painting. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t go over to investigate because if B saw something he could throw he would’ve hurt someone or something. Plus, face painting gives me the heebeejeebee’s.

Parking: At 10am on a Tuesday it was easier to find parking than on 7am Saturday. We got lucky with a spot directly in front of Viviano’s.

By an hour and a half we had filled our market baskets and sampled our way through the entire market. A quick side trip to Whole Foods (literally around the corner on Mack Ave) and it was a fun and filling morning.

B returning our cart at Whole Foods.

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Me and B enjoying our tasty lunch, YUM!

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Backyard Birthday (and other ways to draw blood)

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Size 8 toddler shoes (and toes) all around. The swing was full of laughter and crumbs, the best seat in the house! One of B’s friends has a little sister who invited us to her 1st birthday party, we were happy to join in the fun! Rain showers threatened and then dribbled but not for long. Every child there was eager to share the cake AND presents. The birthday song was the cutest chorus I’ve ever heard. It was a perfect backyard party, until…

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B decided to wipe the patio with his face. I mean when does the instinct to put your hands out in front of you as you fall begin? I know toddlers are top heavy with their wobbly legs and balloon shaped noggins but, seriously!? Apparently he was playing with an excavator (no longer just a truck, these kids are specific and discerning) when he started to run to show it to someone and tripped. The excavator was completely unharmed in this incident. B on the other hand may be scarred for life.

He cried one of those cries that starts out as long silent inhale, mouth agape, but ends up as a blood curdling horror film worthy screech. My heart dropped. I heard the thud of his over- sized head clunk the pavers like a ripe melon. After we calmed down and wiped him clean, all was well. One of the fathers there is a physician and examined B. No stitches or MRI’s needed, “just keep it clean and he’ll be fine”. In the end all he needed was a hug and a lollipop. I wish all troubles of the world could be as easily solved.

Have you had any bad “ouchies” with your little one?

Rain Barrel Gardening

My husband hates this monstrosity. He is only going along with my romantic idealism that having a rain barrel makes me a conservationist so I don’t bother him about buying more signage for his man cave (seriously, that’s another story all together). He drilled a hole into one of our gutters and now this massive barrel sits in wait for me to fill up my watering can seven times (yes, I counted) to water every single potted plant and herb in our yard every day.

It would be much easier to use the hose, but I am stubborn and want to prove to my neighbors (a.k.a my in-laws) and my friends that I’m not just taking up valuable deck space with this thing but actually benefitting the earth. As I do this routine each night I offer B to hold the can and pour the water (you know, teach him how things grow). He was into it the first week or so, but two months in, he’s OUT. I’m beginning to wish I had just stuck with my original plan of paving my entire yard.

I am hating my plants right now. They are so needy. I even had to beg someone to come over and water them when we went away for the weekend. I secretly hoped the person would forget and they would all die and I could be released of my nightly obligation. Why can’t I commune with nature? I want to be “earthy”, but I’d rather be doing almost ANYTHING else. I’m beginning to see the allure if that green grasslike indoor /outdoor carpeting. Am I losing my mind?

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