Our MI vacation: the good, the bad & the ugly (with pictures, of course!)

On Saturday, Aug. 9, we returned home to Colorado after spending two weeks on vacation in Michigan. Most of our trip was spent in Oscoda (where my parents live), but we also spent a little time “down state” in my hometown of Clawson and the surrounding area, and Jody, the kids and I spent three days on Mackinac Island.

There was drama even before we left for our trip when I discovered (as I went with the kids to our car in Borders parking lot) one of our tires had gone nearly completely flat. This happened the day before we left. I got the tire fixed (actually, got all 4 tires replaced since we were due to do that anyway after having another flat just two weeks prior) and I was thankful that it happened and was discovered that day instead of the following morning as we scrambled to the airport to catch our flight. (Small favors and all that.)

The trip itself went quite well for the most part and what follows are some of the memorable moments – the good, the bad and the ugly (in no particular order).

The Good
* Watching the kids delight in the waves and sandy beaches of Lake Huron or discovering interesting rocks and minnows in the Au Sable River
Julian on the beach at Lake HuronJulian on the beach at Lake HuronAva in the Au Sable River
* Eating s’mores (or, in Julian’s case, plain chocolate graham crackers) at a campfire in my parents’ backyard
Julian and a graham cracker
* Going with my sister for a walk down memory lane, or more specifically the street we grew up on
* Watching the kids read books, get pulled in the wagon, and play with their grandma & grandpa
Reading books
* Seeing Ava perfect her bike-riding skills
Ava riding her bike at Grandma&pa’s house
* The kids smearing sunscreen all over my back for me
* The surreal feeling of watching my kids play at two of the parks I used to play at as a child
* Communing with nature.
Wild flowersAt the marshes
* And trying to catch the little frogs
A frog on a log
* Everything about Mackinac Island – the flowers, the clean air (no cars on the island), the horses, the biking, the fudge, the history, the nature and beauty
The harbor, Mackinac IslandThe kids on Main Street, Mackinac Island
* Watching Julian pass out kisses and the kids beg for more bites of dessert from grandma & grandpa
The kids with grandma and grandpa
* Witnessing Ava drive her first boat at age 4
Ava driving her first boat
* Seeing Julian eat the rind off a lemon slice, twice
Julian eating a lemon
* Zen biking riding around Mackinac Island and discovering the perfect place to have lunch (Turtle Park) – with sandwiches made by Jody right at the picnic table – and let the kids play
Jody with the kids in the Burley on Mackinac Island
* Watching Ava and my mom’s excitement over the butterfly kit my mom got as the chrysalises hatched and butterflies emerged
* Seeing extended family members and watching Ava bond with her 15-year-old cousin Claire
Ava and cousin Claire (taken by cousin Ryan)
* Getting to float on the waves of Lake Huron alone with Jody for about 30 glorious minutes
* Capturing the look on Ava’s face as she saw a rainbow
Ava spots a rainbowRainbow

* Having an opportunity to take Ava’s 4 year pictures
* Spending time playing with the kids without having to worry about blog posts needing to be written, the house needing cleaning or dinner needing to be made
* Seeing the kids, especially Julian, enjoy strawberry shortcake for the first time
Julian enjoying his first strawberry shortcake
* Never tiring of Julian requesting “more horsey” after seeing yet another horse on Mackinac Island
* Assembling a rock family with Ava on Mackinac
Mommy, Ava and the rock familyOur rock family
* Water as far as the eye can see
Looking out at Lake Huron from Arch Rock
* The opportunity to take lots of pictures
Me and Julian at Fort Holmes
* Listening to the kids play grandma’s piano
Tickling the ivories
* Beautiful sunsets
Sunset behind the Mackinac Bridge
* Watching Ava make a new friend at our resort. They went from “flying” around together, to collecting seagull feathers, to talking, hugging and kissing in the span of about 30 minutes. It’s amazing how simple it can be.
Ava and her new friend Lily at Mission Point Resort (Mackinac Island)
* Eating ice cream, ice cream, and more ice cream.
Mmm, ice creamIce cream
* Watching my little beach combers
Ava and Julian on the beach of Lake HuronJulian - “Giddy-up!”
* Having my whole family together (mom, dad, me, li’l bro, li’l sis), even if it was just for one dinner
My brother, mom, dad, sister and me
* And a new picture of me with my siblings. Not sure when the last one of the three of us together was taken.
Me with my li’l sis and bro (taken by my cousin Ryan)

The Bad
* Iceburg lettuce. Seriously, what is up with iceburg lettuce?! I’d forgotten that it seems to be a staple in MI and that it’s nearly impossible to get a salad without it.
* Discovering we’d also left our wireless router at my parents’ house. Oops!
* Wearing my new sexy sandals for 10 minutes only to have them leave my feet looking like this:
Ouchee feet

* Discovering we’d also left our Mackinac Island fudge from the Murray Hotel in my parents’ fridge. D’oh!

The Good
* My mom saying she would mail the fudge to us. :)

And the Ugly
* Having one of our three suitcases stolen out of my sister’s car.
* Finding out insurance won’t cover any of it since the amount of items stolen (clothes, shoes, bike helmets) is just under the amount of our deductible

The Good
* Realizing my evil sandals were in the suitcase that was stolen.

The Bad
* Realizing my brand new tennis shoes were also in there, as well as one of Ava’s favorite dresses.

And more of The Good
* Getting a family picture using a tripod and the timer
Family photo on Mackinac Island
* Making wonderful memories
Daddy’s little girlAva and Julian at Fort HolmesMe and the kids at sunset on Mackinac IslandJody and the kids at G’ma & G’pa’s houseThe kids at Mission Point Resort

Making menstruation a little greener

Since I’m still trying to get my vacation summary post put together (hundreds of pictures from two different cameras take a long time to sift through let me tell you), I thought I’d talk about something else that has been on my mind lately. It may be TMI for some, but I’m not letting that stop me, so consider yourself warned. The topic is menstruation and reusable menstrual products.

Photo courtesy Greencolander
Photo courtesy Greencolander

Thanks to breastfeeding, I had many, many moons free of periods after Julian’s birth, but now my cycles are back I’ve been trying for the last few months to get the hang of using a Moon Cup. I am not a fan of disposable diapers for many reasons including the fact that they fill up the landfills, and don’t feel that disposable menstrual pads are much better ecologically either. So in the name of green living, I decided to try out a Moon Cup from Glad Rags that I received (while I was pregnant with Julian) to review. It’s just taken me a long time to get to doing that review (and I’m still not ready yet).

Truth be told, I’ve never been fond of tampons and have avoided using them except on rare occasions. I’ve just never liked the way they felt and preferred to use pads instead. So I have been a little reticent about trying to make the switch from pads to a cup that must be inserted and I haven’t found my happy place with it yet. I find it often feels like it’s falling out or it actually does slip down and starts to come out. Maybe I’m not inserting it high enough? Maybe my va-jay-jay isn’t right for a Moon Cup?

Any experienced Moon Cup, Diva Cup or Keeper users want to chime in? Has anyone gone from being a pad user to a cup user with success? I need success stories to motivate me to keep at this.

I’ve also considered using mama cloth (reusable cloth pads), but I’m not sure I want to go that route. I already wash cloth diapers on a weekly basis and am not sure I want to add cloth pads to the laundry list too. The Moon Cup would certainly be a whole lot less maintenance if I can get more comfortable with using it.

So what say you? I need advice. And if you don’t use reusable menstrual products, would you consider them? Once I get better with my Moon Cup I plan to have a challenge and a giveaway to help motivate you to give it a try too.

Help me have a happy, green period. ;oP

And while we’re on this subject, have you donated to Goods 4 Girls – a program to help young women in Africa gain access to better menstrual product – yet?

Home again

home-sweet-home.jpgAfter two weeks of relaxing, sleeping in, swimming and playing on vacation in Michigan, we are back home and (happy day!) slept in our own beds last night. For the most part, it was a good trip – with some bumps and snags along the way.

I’m trying to get back into the swing of things today, like restocking my empty refrigerator, but I hope to have a post up tomorrow with some of the details and lots of pictures of our trip.

I hope you enjoyed the guest bloggers while I was away. It was wonderful to have a break from blogging and know my blog was in good hands. Thank you, guest bloggers! :)

Guest post: Learning from Experience: Tips for New Organic Gardners

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 , I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s post is from Meryl who blogs at My Bit of Earth.

My grandfather was an avid gardener. He grew tomatoes, beans, peas, corn–he even had a small orchard from which he would pick fruit for my grandmother’s fabulous pies. He gardened for 70+ years, all within 100 miles of where I live today, making any advice he could have given me invaluable as it would have been both well-tested and specific to my climate.

Unfortunately, my grandfather died years before I caught the gardening bug, so I’ve had to learn the hard way–experience.

I am now in my fourth year as an organic gardener–mostly veggies, but some flowers too. I have a 10×10 plot in my local community garden, as well as a mostly-container garden at my house. Here are seven bits of wisdom my experiences have taught me.

1. If it’s worth planting, it’s worth writing down.

Keep a paper journal, start a blog, do what you must, but make a record of your garden. At minimum, it should include the specific variety of what you plant, when you planted it, any problems you had, and how your harvest went. Pictures are a nice bonus.

Review your record before you plan your garden each year. Not only will it help you to remember the name of that fabulous tomato you planted last year, it will keep you from making the same mistakes over and over again. For example, because I wrote down when I planted “Ideal Market” beans last year, I now know that if I plant them in April they’ll just get eaten by bugs and I’ll have to plant anew. But if plant them in May, I should avoid the boom of bean-eating bugs and get a good crop.

2. Buy (at least) one good book.

I love the internet as much as the next person, but I’m convinced that it’s still worthwhile to have one great gardening reference book to help narrow down your searches when you have a problem. This year my Brussels sprouts were being attacked by red bugs, and I couldn’t figure out what the bugs were by searching online. (“Red bugs” isn’t much to go on!) So I looked up Brussels sprouts in my book, and found that they are commonly attacked by Harlequin bugs when the weather gets warm. Sure enough, when I did an image search for “Harlequin bugs” the results looked just like the bugs I had in my garden.

The specific book you buy will depend on what you’re growing, but look for something like an encyclopedia. Something that lists good practices for the crops you want to grow, as well as what to do when things go wrong. For vegetable gardening, my trusty book of choice is Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver.

3. Make friends.

It’s always so nice to learn that someone I know is also a gardener! Partly because I know I won’t bore them with discussions of cabbages and coneflowers, but also because other gardeners–especially if they’ve been gardening for a long time in your specific area–are a wonderful mine of knowledge.

In the community garden where I have a plot, there’s one lady who’s been there for years and, as such, is an absolute treasure. A few weeks ago, when I was having the aforementioned trouble with my Brussels sprouts, she told me to sprinkle them with cayenne pepper. I followed her advice, and a day later my bugs were gone.

4. Visit your garden often, and while you’re there….

Because one of my gardens is not at my house, I don’t always get to it every day. But I’m there every other day, at least. While I think this is necessary for all gardeners to some degree, if you want to garden organically it’s essential.

When you don’t allow yourself to drop a chemical bomb on every pest that comes along, you have to catch little problems before they become big problems. Last year, I started noticing little bronze eggs on my pumpkin leaves in mid-July. I didn’t get on top of it as quickly as I should have, and before I knew it my whole crop was decimated by squash bugs. If I had picked the eggs off the first time I saw them, it would have been a minor blip on my road to Halloween jack’o’lanterns and pumpkin soup.

While you’re doing your walk-through, take five minutes and pull as many weeds as you can. Like pests of the insect variety, weeds will creep up on you until all of a sudden getting rid of them without chemicals is overwhelming. Catch weeds when they’re small and scratch them out with a hoe before they start to take over.

5. Raise your soil right, feed it well, tuck it in.

When I initially started container gardening at my house, I thought of it as kind of a temporary thing until I had space to plant a proper “in-the-ground” garden. After a few years though, I’m convinced that raised beds are the way to go.

In my neck of the woods the problem is clay, but, whatever deficiencies your soil may have, it’s easier to fix them if you raise everything off the ground a bit. Even just logs or landscaping timbers pushed together in a square–which is exactly the set up in my community garden plot–helps make digging, mixing in compost, and planting much easier.

When you go to fill that raised bed, think compost, compost, compost. My city does a free compost give away every year, and I always take advantage of it. Get as much as you can, and mix it in well with your existing soil. If you want your plants to feed you, you must feed them, and they crave compost!

Lastly, cover your soil. You can use pretty mulch if you want, but this year I experimented with newspapers and straw. I put down about six layers of newspaper (black and white only), sprayed it with water, and spread one or two inches of straw over the top. When I went to plant my veggies I just used a shovel to poke a hole through the paper. It’s kept the weeds down, let water in, and whatever is left of it next Spring can easily be tilled into my soil.

6. Keep things in perspective.

There will be setbacks, there will be loses. If you’re committed to going organic, you should realize that sometimes a problem is going to get away from you. You’re going to see visions of your entire crop being ruined, and you’re going to be sooo tempted to resort to a chemical spray. When this happens, step back and regain your perspective.

Yes, yes, I know. You worked hard for that plant, whatever it is. You dug and toiled in the hot sun–perhaps were even devoured by mosquitoes as you regularly watered.

But, if you’re a small scale gardener, is it really worth it? Do you really need that eggplant that’s probably half-chewed on by bugs anyway? Or can you accept that nothing is a failure if you enjoyed the learning process, put down the nasty spray, and pick up your eggplant at the farmer’s market this week instead?

Good for you, that’s what I thought.

7. Grow what you love, but love what you can grow.

If you can be perfectly satisfied with a garden of tomatoes and peppers, go for it. If you’re intrigued by exotic varieties of garlic, plant yourself some. If you just can’t stand life without that pretty kind of rose that’s named after you, figure out what it needs to thrive and make it happen. To me there is no point in having a garden if you don’t grow the things you absolutely love.

With all that being said, however, over the past few years I’ve found the plants I truly love are the ones that don’t need much fuss, and are happy in the climate and space that I have to give them. I’ve killed four beautiful rose bushes to date, and none have made me as happy as the beautiful ‘Diablo’ cosmos that are popping up almost unbidden all over my garden right now. Like clockwork, every year I decide to try a pretty flowering hanging basket. After the last one didn’t live a week–the darned things need a crazy amount of water–I bought a sturdy fern that looks better at week four than most of the flowers did on day two. The ugliest thriving flower looks better than the prettiest dead one–work with what you’ve got!

I hope my experiences are helpful to you–best of luck in your garden!

Meryl Carver-Allmond writes about gardening, photography, crafty stuff, dogs, and whatever else happens to tickle her fancy on any given day at My Bit of Earth.

Guest post: The emotional aspects of being a doula

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s post comes from Sheridan of Enjoy Birth.

The Trust Birth Conference was very interesting. It was fun talking with other doulas there. We had one group discussion and someone talked about how our work as doulas can be effected by our births.

It made me think of my 2 cesareans I have attended as a doula.

I always was nervous how supporting a mom with a cesarean would effect me, because of my first birth. I had an emergency cesarean at 34 weeks. It was scary, my baby was in the NICU, I didn’t get to hold him for 24 hours. It was medically necessary, but still not anything I would want any mom to experience.

So I was talking to this doula about this and came to realize how God had really helped me deal with the ability to suport moms during cesareans, while not letting my emotions from my birth get in the way. He did this in an interesting way.

My first cesarean was Mom B and it was not an emergency situation. It unraveled over 24 hours. A long induction for a first time mom. Exhaustion was the real reason for the cesarean. She was well supported and respected and made the best choice for the situation she was in. It was still hard for me to accept in some ways. It was still quite devastating, because I knew what she was losing and gaining in her choice.

Since it happened slowly, I had time to come to grips with the situation and help support her through that. It wasn’t really until afterwards that I broke down. (There were many facets to that, it was the end of being away from my house for pretty much 57 hours for 2 long inductions.) But driving home I called Jenn, my good friend and all I could say was, “She got a cesarean.” and then started crying and couldn’t really stop. Jenn is a cesarean mom too, so she understood. I still tear up thinking about it and it was 5 months ago.

Fast forward to 2 months ago and I am at another birth. Mom K is on pitocin after supposed PROM. OB checks her and she has bulging forewaters, so she goes to break that, without even planning on telling mom. I jump in to say, “Looks like OB is going to break your water!”

Baby doesn’t tolerate it well at all, they try changing positions, then try amnioinfusion. I can tell things are getting dicey. Suddenly OB is in there and without telling K anything, putting in an internal monitor. I am calmly telling mom what is going on. Then OB goes for second Internal Monitor, I say to K, “It looks like you might be going for a cesarean.” OB calls Code Green, room fills with people. No one is talking to K at all. The room is in chaos. I feel totally calm. I say to K, “Go to your special place. You and your baby will be fine.” Mom and Dad are gone within minutes.

I am left alone in the room. I still feel calm. This was the situation I was most afraid of. Being in a situations close to Devon’s birth. But in reality I think that first birth with B, helped prepare me for this cesarean. It helped me deal with a lot of my emotions regarding Devon’s birth, so that I could be present and calm for K when I needed to be.

K and baby were fine. I loved that she was able to recover back in her room with baby in the room with her. She was holding him skin to skin within an hour after he was born.

It was a much easier birth for me to deal with as a doula. It was medically necessary (though I see very clearly different interventions may have caused that necessity). I was able to provide support before and after. I didn’t shed any tears, though I do feel sorry for K that she joined the sisterhood of the scar. It is something I do not wish for anyone.

Written by Sheridan Ripley –Hypnobabies Instructor, Hypno-doula, Proud VBAC mom, Loving Lactivist, Positive Birth Story Collector and mom of 3 Busy Boys.

Her OC Hypnobabies Website is www.enjoybirth.com. Her Positive Birth Stories Website is www.pregnancybirthandbabies.com.

Her Blogs http://enjoybirth.wordpress.com and http://hypnobabies.wordpress.com.

Paris Hilton: I’ll see you at the debates, bitches

I never thought the day would come when I would find myself rooting for Paris Hilton, but after seeing John McCain’s election anti-Obama “celebrity” ad where he used both Britney Spears and Paris’s likenesses (apparently without their permission) and then Hilton’s rebuttal ad, I have to say – Go Paris, go!

McCain’s ad:

Paris’s response:

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

I’ll see you at the debates, bitches. :)

And after that I’ll see you at the polls, beotches. ;P

More about the Hilton ad:
* Paris memorized entire McCain monologue
* BlogHers react to McCain, Hilton
* Paris Hilton’s mom takes offense at McCain’s humor

What do you think about all of this? If you blog it, leave me your link and I’ll add it to this post. Thanks!