Posts Tagged 'summer'

Do “North”

view on Mackinac Island

I’ve lived in Michigan for over four decades; my wife was an Air Force brat growing up around the world, but her roots were always in the mitten state. Together we ate in New Buffalo, swam in Lake Superior, and tailgated at our alma mater numerous times. So it’s amazing that neither of us ever hopped on the ferry to Mackinac Island. That changed in a recent family road trip “Up North.”

First off, let’s talk “Up North.” Where does it start for you? Past Midland? West Branch? Gaylord or crossing the mighty Mac? For our family, we consider “Up North” anything past the 45th parallel is north. We even make sure that everyone lifts their feet so no one trips over the imaginary latitude line that crosses over the highway.

We’re lucky enough to have family all over “Up North” which is great because it helps keep costs down, but more importantly gives us a little more time to reconnect with those we don’t get to see enough. And truthfully, it gives our girls the time to meet family for the first time and create a bond that can be built on for years to come.

One evening, my wife and I went to her class reunion (the reason for the trip) and had to leave our girls with family they don’t know very well and the plan was to go to a BBQ at another family member’s house they never met.

Our girls are OK at meeting new folks, but they have separation anxiety when we leave them for a longer period of time. But guess what? When we returned, our girls were running around like they’ve been there for years. They met cousins they never knew they had and a neighbor girl who showed them the ropes on the trampoline. The next day there was talk about coming to visit for a week next summer — without us!

Our trip ended on the mainland in the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge. Beautiful part of the state; the mix of tacky shops and history is perfect. Nowhere else can you buy a Mackinaw Strong camo hoodie and learn about how soldiers lived watching out for redcoats. It sets the stage for a whole different world on the island.

The four of us didn’t know what to expect when we got on the ferry to Mackinac Island. We knew we were all going to experience something new as a family. We sat on the second deck of the boat to see the sights. We saw the bridge, buoys up close and personal, and the island itself.

I won’t give you every twist and turn of our Island adventure, but I can say it lives up to the hype. You are transported to a simpler time (if that simpler time had 24 different types of fudge). Our girls learned a lot about the history that is around every turn and they seemed to soak it in.

The point of all of this is that we all experienced something for the first time that we’ll remember for a lifetime. Our state is built for lifelong memories, you just have to go find them and make them.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Our summer bucket list

boy and his little brother in a stroller

Hitting our local splash pad was one of our summer bucket list items.

Summer is my favorite season and for good reason: There’s warm weather and extra sunlight, which brings outdoor activities and longer hours in the day to do them. Plus, my child behaves so differently in the summer because he can run, climb, swim, jump and play to his heart’s desire.

My family loves a good summer and this year we decided to make a summer bucket list. To me, summer feels like a fleeting moment that I’m desperately trying to extend. The anticipation of summer seems to last forever whereas the actual moments of sunshine tend to fly by. Our summer to-do list highlights all the major activities we have been anxiously awaiting. It’s also a great launching point when my child complains of being bored; I can point to our list and ask which one of the activities he wants to do. Mondays aren’t so bad when you decide to cover the sidewalk in chalk or pull out the slip and slide!

To create our summer bucket list, we pulled out white paper and my son’s crayons then started brainstorming. No idea was too silly or small. See a movie outdoors? Sure. Eat something from our home garden? You bet. Have a camp out in the backyard? My son had so much fun! We tried to create a comprehensive list of all the things we wanted to do. The end game was not to simply “check off” items on our list, but instead just to put on paper the fun ideas we each had and then do things as a family.

Incorporating my 4-year-old taught me that his idea of a fun summer is different than mine. While I was focused on including big-ticket items such as family vacations, camping trips and get togethers, my child had amazingly simple ideas to include items like “have a staring contest” and “catch fireflies” on our list. What is better than catching fireflies on a summer night to a 4-year-old? The Babcock Summer Bucket List has been a huge success and I will definitely continue this tradition in the future!

boys with bucket list

My boys with the official bucket list.

Here are the items that got included our 2017 summer bucket list:

  • Go swimming at Nana and Papa’s pool
  • Play on the slip and slide
  • Take a trip up north to the cabin
  • Lay on a hammock
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Take a trip to the zoo
  • Get our faces painted
  • Go visit our local splash pad
  • Catch a frog
  • Camp in the backyard in the tent
  • Have a staring contest
  • Go horseback riding
  • Cover the sidewalk in chalk art
  • Take a family bike ride
  • Have a bonfire and s’mores
  • Catch fireflies
  • Climb a tree
  • See fireworks
  • Have a sleepover with the cousins
  • See an outdoor movie (at the drive-in or at the park)
  • Jump on a trampoline
  • Go for a hike
  • Visit Michigan Adventure waterpark
  • Go fishing
  • Get covered in temporary tattoos
  • Have a hot dog
  • Eat something from our home garden
  • Go fruit picking
  • Visit Belle Isle Aquarium

Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two boys.

More summer fun in metro Detroit

boy at splash pad

Cropped image. Matt Molinari, Flickr. CC license.

Earlier this week I shared some fun activities to do with your family, offering tips for families with kids who have special needs. That post featured new-to-the area ideas as well as some suggestions for a “Day in the D.”

Today, I’m focusing on other great options for a memorable summer in the metro Detroit area.

Quick reminder: If you have someone in your family with special needs, I suggest calling ahead to discuss your child’s needs and asking what accommodations, if any, can be made. If crowds are a problem, ask about the best times to come.

U-Pick farms

What’s the best way to get a kid to eat his fruit or veggies? Probably by picking them. Next time you’re at a strawberry field, look around, and most likely a number of the pint-size pickers will have berry stains on their hands and faces.

U-pick schedules in southeastern Michigan are generally as follows:

  • Strawberries: Mid-June to mid-July
  • Blueberries: Mid-July to mid-September
  • Cherries: Mid-June to mid-August
  • Raspberries: July and September
  • Apples: Mid-August to October

Read here for a list of local u-pick farms.

Take me out to the ballgame

  • Nothing says summer like a night at the baseball park. Creating memories at Comerica Park has to include an obligatory photo in front of the giant tiger statue in front of the stadium and a ride on the carousel and Ferris wheel. But the Detroit Tigers aren’t the only game in town.
  • If a Major League Baseball stadium is too overwhelming, there are other smaller and equally exciting baseball venues. Last year marked the inaugural season for the United Shore Professional Baseball League at Jimmy John’s Field in Utica. Each of the four teams is composed of top-level college athletes from around the country. Ticket prices start at $6 for lawn seats and go as high as $35 for front-row club seats.
  • Located a stone’s throw from the Michigan Capitol Building sits Cooley Law School Stadium, home to the Lansing Lugnuts. The stadium seats over 10,000 fans and is considered one of the most handicapped accessible stadiums in the country. The Lugnuts, a Class-A minor league team affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, have their own team song “Go Nuts” and a team mascot, Big Lug. Ticket prices start at $8 for lawn seats and go as high as $35.
  • Of course we can’t forget about the Toledo Mud Hens, a minor league team affiliated with the Tigers. Tickets prices start at $15.

Beat the heat

Tired of visiting the same splash pads each summer? If you’re willing to drive a little, there is no shortage of places to get wet.

  • KLR Splashpad
    • 2795 Seymour Lake Rd., Oxford Township
    • Non-resident fee $4
    • This is an inclusive park for kids of all abilities. Aqua wheelchairs are available.

Festivals

Festivals and summer are synonymous. Michigan weekends are packed with events centered around art, food, music and outdoor activities. Here is a comprehensive listing.

What are some of your favorite summertime activities?

– Jen Lovy, Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer

Summer fun in metro Detroit: Helping kids with special needs enjoy summer outings

boy in kayak simulator

Summertime in Michigan quite possibly makes the rest of the year in the mitten state that much more tolerable. The only downside to June, July and August is the fact that there aren’t enough days to experience all the local fairs, festivals and outdoor activities.

Venues such as Greenfield Village, the Detroit Zoo, and the area’s many parks and pools, are tried-and-true destinations but there are so many more ways to make the most out of what will hopefully be another glorious Michigan summer.

Since I happen to be the parent of a child with autism, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to accommodate my son while enjoying the next 11 weeks of vacation. Because this time of year can be particularly challenging for a child with a disability, included are some options and suggestions for kids like mine.

Today we’re focusing on activities that are new this area, as well as a fun “Day in the D.” Then, check back on Thursday this week for some other creative options!

New to do

  • Last year we saw the opening of several great family friendly venues, including the LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Great Lakes Crossing. The Detroit Zoo debuted the eagerly awaited Polk Penguin Conservation Center, and the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center brought a taste of the great outdoors to an indoor facility downtown.
  • This year, after more than a decade of planning, the much-anticipated QLine streetcar system along Woodward Avenue is finally open! Kids under 44 inches can ride free with an adult. A single-ride pass, good for three hours, costs $1.50 and an all-day pass is $3. Riders have easy access to the Detroit Institute of Arts, The Michigan Science Center, Comerica Park and Campus Martius Park.
  • What else is new? How about free movies at Emagine theatres? On select Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m., participating locations will screen popular kids films such as “Kung Fu Panda 3,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Trolls” and “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.” Admission is free for kids 11 and under and $2 for moviegoers 12 and up.
  • Need a sensory friendly film option? AMC Theatres offer the perfect venue on the second and fourth Saturday of each month with a family friendly movie. Tuesday evening movies offer options for more mature audiences. Participating Emagine theatres also have a lineup of sensory-friendly films for the summer.
  • Also relatively new, and unlike any place around, is Play-Place for Autistic Children. This 25,000 square-foot facility, located in Sterling Heights, houses a computer café, art studio, carousel, LEGO castle, laser light chalk room, calming rooms and so much more.

A Day in the D

In addition to a ride on the QLine, there is so much to do in Detroit. See why the rest of the nation is calling Detroit the comeback city.

  • The Detroit RiverWalk stretches several miles along the Detroit River. In additional to great views, there are plenty of places to explore. Highlights for the little ones include a splash pad, play park and river-themed carousel at Rivard Plaza. There, visitors will find a granite map of the Detroit River, a glass sculptured map of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the RiverWalk café, and Wheelhouse Detroit. This bike shop offers tours as well as bike rentals in a wide variety of bikes, including large tricycles (great for those who need an adaptive set of wheels) and kids bikes.
  • Also located at the Plaza is Diamond Jack’s River Tours, a company offering public tours and private charters along the Detroit River.
  • Elliott Park, located on the East Riverfront, features a Great Lakes themed play area with water cascades, cannons, wind chimes and other kid-friendly, interactive features. The newly renovated park was designed to be accessible to users of all ages and abilities.
  • When’s the last time you visited Belle Isle? There is so much to do on this 987-acre island. Here are seven things your family can enjoy during your visit.
  1. See the James Scott Memorial Fountain
  2. Visit the Dossin Great Lakes Museum
  3. Go to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
  4. Check out the oldest aquarium in the United States
  5. Swim at the Belle Isle Beach
  6. Ride the giant slide
  7. Enjoy the small, but free, nature zoo

A few general tips to an enjoyable summer include calling ahead to discuss your child’s needs and asking what accommodations, if any, can be made. If crowds are a problem, ask about the best times to come.

– Jen Lovy, Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer

Let’s go hiking!

family hiking

Spring is here and with summer right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to do an article about hiking. Just like camping, hiking is a great way for you to spend quality time with your family without spending a fortune. But how do you get started? Here are some tips that can help.

Location

First, decide how big of an adventure you want to tackle. Start small and work your way into longer treks.

  • The easiest trails can be found at nature centers or Metroparks. These are often just a few miles on groomed trails so they can be completed in a few hours.
  • You can then steadily increase the distance and/or altitude on future hikes. As you take on more challenging trails, you may eventually decide that you want to spend the night on the trail.

Boots

Absolutely, the most important equipment is footwear! If you don’t have boots that are comfortable or fit properly, you are going to have problems.

  • Generally you’ll want a boot that provides plenty of arch and ankle support (although some hikers like to wear lightweight shoes with very little support).
  • Spend as much as you can afford on the boots. It is true that you get what you pay for.
  • Consider getting your boots from an outdoor recreation store like REI. Stores like this often allow you to exchange the boots for a different style if you find them uncomfortable. Their staff is also going to be more knowledgeable about hiking than at a regular shoe store.
  • Wear your boots around the house or during the day to help break them in before going on a hike.

Equipment

Backpacking is all about saving weight. When you have everything in your backpack, it shouldn’t weigh more than one-third of your body weight. If it does, either you have too much stuff or you need to buy lighter equipment. Not surprisingly, lighter equipment is usually higher in price.

  • A backpack
    • Start with basic equipment. A regular school-type backpack is fine for going a few miles at a Metropark. You can pack a lunch, snacks, and a small first aid kit with plenty of room left for a raincoat, extra water, etc.
    • When you’re ready to start spending the night on the trail, it’s time to upgrade your equipment.
      • The duration of your hike will help determine the size of the backpack that you need. If you plan to continue expanding your hiking abilities, go with a bigger pack so you can grow into it.
      • For overnight hikes, you can probably get by with a 40 to 50 liter backpack. For a weeklong hike, you’ll want 80 to 90 liters.
    • Most backpacks now have an internal frame, meaning that the structure is built into the backpack instead of the frame being on the outside. When you’re at the store, try on several different brands and styles to see which one fits your build the best. Again, an outdoor recreation store is great for this because they have a wide selection and knowledgeable staff.
  • A sleeping bag.
    • There are generally two types of sleeping bags: down and synthetic. Down is warmer but can take longer to dry if it gets wet (although there are new styles available with water-resistant down). Synthetic bags will dry faster and are usually cheaper. Be sure to get a waterproof compression sack to store it in.
    • Note: You don’t want to use the same one that you use for tent camping because it won’t compress small enough to fit in your backpack.
  • A tent.
    • There are several styles of backpacking tents available in a wide range of prices. If you’re hiking with other people, you can get a two person tent and each of you can carry half of the tent.
    • Generally speaking, most tents are similar in design; you’ll have poles, a nylon shell, and a rainfly.
    • When you buy a higher price tent, you’re paying for lighter weight.
  • Some cooking gear.
    • Start with a backpacking stove. You can get ones with pre-filled canisters of fuel, ones with a fuel bottle that you can refill, ones that use fuel tablets, or even ones that use wood. Talk with a staff member at the store to determine which one is best for your needs.
    • For pots and pans, look for ones that nest inside each other to save space.
    • Again, higher price means lighter weight.
  • You don’t need to spend much money on plates, cups and utensils. Just get a plastic bowl, a cup, and a spork (a fork, spoon and knife all in one). You can even go simpler and use a Frisbee for your bowl!s
  • That’s it for the basic equipment that you need. You can consider getting things like collapsible stools, hiking poles, pillows, GPS, coffee pots, and more. Just remember to watch the weight.

Food

  • To save weight, go with freeze-dried food. It stores easily and is fairly easy to cook on the trail.
  • Bring high-energy snacks to eat while hiking. You will go through more of these than you would expect, so have plenty.
  • Water can be your biggest obstacle when hiking. If you’re doing a strenuous hike, you’ll want to have at least one quart of water for every hour that you’re hiking. Drinking water also helps combat altitude sickness. You’ll also need water for cooking and cleaning. Consider dedicating specific bottles for each of the categories. You’ll likely need to fill your bottles during the trip so plan ahead. Either know where you can find clean, sanitized water or bring a method to sanitize water from streams and lakes.

Clothing

  • Less is more with clothing. Believe me, you can go a whole week on two sets of clothes! Bring some biodegradable soap and you can wash your clothes in a stream. Hang them on the outside of your pack to dry as you hike.
  • Spend some extra money and get a lightweight, thermal, long-sleeve shirt. You can wear this in the morning so you don’t have to bring a coat.
  • Have a separate set of sleeping clothes. Shorts and a T-shirt work great.
  • Bring a couple extra pairs of socks so that you always have a dry pair to wear.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • A lack of sanitation is the enemy when hiking. Don’t drink untreated water from lakes and streams. Make sure you are properly cleaning and sanitizing your cooking gear. Determine how you are going to deal with your waste and use hand sanitizer as necessary.
  • Be sure to familiarize yourself with the trails before setting out. Even if you are hiking though a Metropark, print off a copy of the map so you know where you are. For longer hikes, purchase topographical maps of the area. Even though you can use a compass on your phone, have a regular compass as a backup.
  • Make sure to use sunscreen. Even in the woods, the sun can filter through and have an effect.
  • Always let someone know that you’re going on a hike (even if you’re with a group). Share your planned route and when you expect to return. This will assist rescuers should you need help on the trail. Remember, your cell phone may not work on the trail, so you may not be able to call for help.
  • Finally, follow the Leave No Trace principles. They can be found at lnt.org. It’s important that we all follow these principles so that everyone can enjoy the trails for generations to come.

Now, get out on the trail and see what the world has to offer!

– Dave Enerson started camping and hiking with his dad as a young child. He is a former Scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout Troop and spent a week hiking at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico last summer.

Holy Toledo! Run, don’t walk to the Toledo Zoo

Girl in pretend egg and boy in pretend nest

My kids loved pretending they were animals.

My brother-in-law always says that with kids, if you’re not on offense, you’re on defense. He’s right, so I put a lot of effort into keeping my kids occupied (keeping my kids occupied = maintaining my sanity).

In the spirit of parents helping parents, I recently discovered the Toledo Zoo. Many of you have probably visited already, but for those who have only thought about it, stop thinking and go. It’s fantastic!

I just took my 4.5-year-old twins. The 90-minute car ride went easily. It was the kids’ first time out of state, so when I told them they were in Ohio, they asked “What’s Ohio?” I explained it’s another state, and we live in Michigan. That’s when my daughter said, “Are we still on our planet?”

Sort of. We’re in Ohio.

Enough Ohio bashing. Back to the day trip.

The directions the zoo has posted online were spot on, so once we got off the freeway, I had no trouble finding it. Also, they participate in reciprocating zoo memberships, so if you’re a member of the Detroit Zoo, bring your card and you’ll get 50 percent off admission. For two adults and two kids, it was $35 to get in, plus $7 for parking.

People told me that you get to be closer to the animals at the Toledo Zoo, and they weren’t kidding. It’s a very hands-on place full of activities and learning experiences for the kids. There’s even a zipline over the giraffes!

A man, little girl and little boy standing close to aquarium tank

The aquarium tanks make it very easy for kids (big and little) to get close to the sea life.

It’s a big place — you park on one side of the road and walk over a pedestrian bridge to the other side of the zoo. The kids saw real elephants for the first time, touched starfish, built a nest and hatched from an egg. The highlight for me was the new aquarium. Beautifully done — and air conditioned — the aquarium has several “touch” experiences and easy-to-see tanks.

This zoo is built for kids. It’s almost a theme park/zoo. They have a splash pad, an indoor forest learning center, and two playscapes complete with rock climbing walls that even my littles scaled without a problem. There’s also a children’s area where kids can play and grown-ups can hunt Pokémon. Seriously. They were all over the place. So were Pokéstops.

Not having any faith in the quality of zoo food or the desire to spend an arm and a leg, I brought a picnic lunch, but there were plenty of eating options. One of the café areas is in the building that used to house bigger animals, like tigers. Patrons ate in the steel-bar cages that long-ago housed carnivores, as the etched stone at the top of the building proclaimed. It was a cool experience.

Be warned, we decided to get an ice cream treat in the heat of the afternoon, so we stopped at a stand. My son asked for his favorite chocolate ice cream. Do you know how excited he was when the lady handed him a full pint? Best. Mom. Ever.

And, yes, there were bathrooms everywhere.

All in all, I’d highly recommend this as a family day trip. We spent the entire day there and didn’t get to see everything. But it’s safe to say, we’ll be heading back.

– Rebecca Calappi is a Publications Coordinator at Beaumont Health and adoptive parent of multiples.

Three creative ways to get your kids reading this summer

Three ways to get kids reading this summer

Summer officially started yesterday. The best way to keep your kids engaged with books over the next few months is to have a plan. Be prepared to make it fun, meaningful, and to include the entire family. Here’s how:

  1. Make it fun

There are a number of ways to make reading fun this summer.

  • How about having your child track their reading with a BINGO board? Here’s a fun printable to explore and download.
  • Another way of making reading adventurous is to go on a scavenger hunt at your local library. Last summer, we checked off one of these items each week we went to the library and couldn’t wait to continue on our search for unique titles. My first grader loved it!
  1. Make it a family event

Include the entire family in on reading this summer by hosting a few family dinner book nights. You read a book, make a craft, cook a themed dinner, and discuss the book over a meal with the entire family. There are also suggestions to extend the activity with a service project (hooray for incorporating kindness into your summer activities). My friend Jodi from Growing Book by Book has hosted these book clubs monthly for the last two years. Here are a list of ideas you can adapt for your own family fun.

  1. Make it meaningful

If you’re going to give children access to books this summer — whether they are books from the library, garage sales, thrift stores, bookstores, or Amazon — choose books carefully.

The first rule of thumb is to include some books with strong moral messages. My friend Laura, who is an elementary school teacher, created a movement called #TakingCareThursday. It asks families and teachers to be intentional in reading at least one book a week (it doesn’t have to be on Thursdays) that teaches children about character traits such as kindness, empathy and compassion.

The second thing to keep in mind when bringing books into your home this summer is to choose books that are of interest to your child. Do they love trucks, animals or cooking? Search for these books to get into their hands as well. Here is a list of book suggestions for #TakingCareThursday.

The most important take-away from today’s blog post is to be sure your children have access to books this summer. If they have books but don’t want to read them, add in books with topics they are interested in and the element of fun. You are sure to get them reading then!

 – Maria Dismondy is a mother of three, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan.


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