Fall Fest at the DeLano Homestead

We spent the late afternoon today at a fall festival at the Nature Center’s DeLano Homestead Farm. I remember loving the old farmhouse (built in 1858) full of period furniture and household goods when I was little; it felt like the perfect place to weave an imaginative tale and “play house” (although I don’t recall being able to touch any of the things or even enter all of the rooms). When we went in with the kids today I was surprised to be able to walk into every room and interact with things. The festival was far from full-scale agrotainment, but the kids seemed to enjoy a couple of relaxed hours traveling back in time.

I’m obsessed with the light in this room, and also reminded that sometimes all it takes are a few toys from the late 1800s to keep kids completely engrossed.











The twins were pretty enamored with the animals, and clung to the fence quite a bit.








Movies on the Barn


We went to our first official movie as a family tonight, and it was so much fun! I’m not even a movie person really, and I had high hopes but low expectations for this evening. I don’t even know why I saw something about this online (Facebook advertising, I’m sure) but this newish community space that no one seems to know much about apparently shows occasional family movies projected on a sheet on the side of a barn, so we all headed out to Riverview Launch to check it out. Jonah does not have a great track record with movies. He generally feels like any movie with an antagonist of any kind is terrifying, so we don’t watch movies as a rule. They were showing Disney’s Zootopia which is PG, so I had concerns, but I really wanted to give this a try.

Everybody did great, and we stayed for the whole thing (not something I was counting on) and Jonah loved the movie (despite the fact that there was a good bit of scariness involved). All three of the kids seemed to love being there, and I found it to be so magical cuddling with the kids and watching a movie under the stars. I’m so proud of this boy for moving past his movie fears.


He had a scooter accident yesterday, which is where the nose booboos came from

Vivi and Jude eventually crashed on K’s lap, and we all listened to our new favorite song over and over on the way home.


Pushing through decision paralysis


The countdown to our closing date is finally beginning to feel real and as a result we are finally making some design decisions and committing to them. We have been all over the place when it comes to interior design, and while that might sound like we’ve been arguing about it, we’ve honestly been traveling all over the design map together; we just couldn’t get past the fear of making the wrong decision (well OK, I couldn’t) and every time one of us raised a potential concern it sent the other one into a fit of doubts. Kristin has been to a wholesale flooring place so many times that when I dropped by last week I got the sense that they know her almost as well as their contractors.

For flooring we started at laminate, and then decided that we wanted real wood, which started at hickory and then maple and then a variety of grey stained maples and oaks, followed by teak, and finally we landed at the most basic of basic: natural red oak. We’ve been to the paint store twice with different flooring samples, asking the awesome design specialist there to choose a paint palette based on our flooring, and now we’ll have to return again with this new floor but we don’t care: we’re excited about it. We both wanted something with more of a matte finish, and while neither of us has ever been a huge oak fan, we loved the almost invisible finish and lack of shine on this particular flooring. Plus it turned out to be the cheapest thing we’d considered, which was a huge bonus. Our flooring guy told us that given the age, location, and design of our house, he would have guessed that either red or white oak would have been original to the house, so we’re feeling good about a choice that works with the house instead of trying to force it to take on a different look. The wood will be going in the formal living room, the kitchen, and the great room, in addition to the hallway to the bedrooms.

We’ve decided to put down fairly inexpensive carpeting in the bedrooms because they won’t be high traffic areas, and because it feels warmer. I honestly never thought that I’d put in carpeting by choice; I’ve never liked it, but somehow it felt like the right move in this house. Plus it’s way cheaper than putting in wood floors and then buying area rugs.

We also finally decided on bedding for everyone. Sally at Douglas and Son told me that she wouldn’t even talk to me about bedroom paint colors until I brought her the bedding. The only problem was that we couldn’t make up our minds about bedding, and Kristin disagreed with the whole idea of choosing bedding in order to choose paint (my dad is with her on that, but I still think they’re both wrong) but she let me do things in that order anyway. We’d been in a bit of a stalemate over Vivi’s room, but the dust finally settled when we realized that the design she liked wasn’t available in a twin duvet cover, so we came to a bit of an eclectic compromise: I got the quilt I wanted and she got the dog patterned pillowcases as an accent piece, even though they don’t exactly go together. Vivi’s bedding is coming from Land of Nod, the boys are getting bedding from Hanna Andersson, and ours came from West Elm. I’m sure that we could have gone way cheaper if we’d wanted to, but it felt important to me to try to pull these rooms together from the start in the way that I want. We’re inheriting a bed for Vivi from the seller, so that saves us some money, and both the wood and carpeting ended up cheaper than we’d anticipated, so I think it will all shake out. We’re excited for things to arrive so that we can take a giant pile of blankets to Sally and ask her what colors we should paint the walls.

And while some of the main area paint colors might change, we think that we’re pretty much there at this point. We’re using a greige in both the great room and living room, but painting a dark blue accent color on one wall of the great room and painting the drab limestone fireplace in the living room a dark grey (probably also a greige if I’m being honest, but we both hate that word). We’re probably using one of the medium blues in the kitchen, and leaving the cream colored cabinets alone (for now). So lots of cool paint colors but warm floors, so we hope that it will balance out.

I ordered the flooring today, we have paint and flooring and repair guys lined up for mid October. We close on the 10th, so it’s finally beginning to feel like a reality. I’d originally hoped that we could have everything pretty moved-in-looking by Thanksgiving, but now we’ve decided that we’ll probably hold off on buying any furniture for the great room, so I’m expecting it to look kind of haphazard and unfinished for awhile. As wise friends have reminded me, our friends will be coming over to see us not our perfect house, so I just need to accept that something will always be incomplete.

Balloon Glow


It’s a rarely recalled fact that my dad used to fly hot air balloons. My parents tell me that when I was a toddler, they’d wake me up before dawn head out to cornfields and fly balloons. It’s not something that I truly remember, but when it comes up in conversation I recall the topic in the same way that I might remember having been there.

I stumbled upon a weekend listing for the Kalamazoo Balloon Festival on Friday, and we decided to drive out to check out the balloon glow after dinner tonight. I’m so glad that we did. It was one of the most unique things we’ve ever seen. Such a beautiful sight, and such a Michigan experience. The kids absolutely loved it, and as we sat in the grass I turned to Kristin and said that while these may not always feel like our people, these are our roots and I sort of love this stuff. These are the things that make me love being in Michigan again.

First week of school wrap up, design decisions, and wet messy fun

The kids wrapped up their first week at the new center last Friday. I’m feeling good about it but the twins are having a very rough time adjusting, at least at drop off. Jude has been inconsolable before Kristin leaves for work in the morning if he’s anywhere but in her arms, and they’re both a mess when I leave them in their classroom. It tears my heart out to see them go through it, but I know that I have to make space for all of the transitions they’ve been going through and recognize that it’s probably a normal part of this process. The teachers swear that they have a good time once they settle in. For the most part Jonah seems to love it. He had a rough time at drop off on Friday, but I blame myself for lingering a bit too long. He’s told me that he loves his teacher and seems to really enjoy all that he does there.

Of course following the first week at a new school, two out of three of them are sick and had to stay home today. And of course that happened on a day when I had one of the most important meetings I’ve had in many months. Thank god my mom was willing to forego the work she’d intended to do today and stayed home with them while I hid out in other rooms to make phone calls. While I presented to our senior leadership team via Skype I was terrified that one of the kids would burst into the room screaming at any moment, but my mom is a miracle worker and I honestly didn’t hear a peep.

It was also Kristin’s birthday today, and my mom ended up making her cupcakes (sorry mom! I really was going to do that and I owe you big time) and picking up Chinese take out for dinner when cooking just didn’t come together in time. K took Jonah to his first swimming lesson a the Y tonight (which they bailed on halfway through, partly because he didn’t feel good and partly because he can’t stand to follow directions – apparently he told the teacher “But I already know how to swim!” Lies, but I can absolutely hear him saying it). We hope to take some sort of family weekend trip soon as a belated birthday celebration, but planning it is still firmly in the to-do column. We’re open to suggestions within a few hours drive.

On Saturday I went down to a local paint store (“a real paint store” as my dad says, as opposed to Lowe’s I guess) to sit down with a design consultant and get some help thinking through our color palette for the house. I’m SO glad that I did. We already had one color that I’m in love with, which we plan to use on a single wall in our great room, but we were really struggling to pull everything else together. I sat with a super cool woman named Sally who had the most amazing glasses (she tells me she’s had them since the ’70s) and she suggested a handful of colors that should work far better than the neutrals we’d picked out. Tomorrow I’m supposed to meet our potential flooring guy at the house so that he can measure and give us his two cents (and a quote, of course), so I’m curious to hear what he has to see about both these paint swatches and a couple of flooring ideas that we have.

On Saturday afternoon we took the kids up to Lansing to a science museum called Impression 5. I remember going there once or twice as a kid, and the kids seemed to enjoy it. We’re so accustomed to being at our museum fairly often that I keep thinking we really ought to buy a membership somewhere, but so far it’s been tough to decide. Every time we go to a new one we ask Jonah which was his favorite and it’s always the most recent one (of course). This one had a particularly fun room for ages 0-4 with a tiny water table play area that the twins loved, and some pretty cool catapults and pneumatic rocket type things.


On Sunday we checked out the Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival with high hopes for some family fun, but we only made it about as far as a craft fair full of gems like this one before we knew that this was not our scene, and we packed everyone up in the car. It was definitely a Michigan culture shock moment, of which we’ve had many.


We headed for the Kalamazoo Nature Center instead, which is where Jonah wanted to go all along (we really ought to listen to him on these matters). I hadn’t been in a million years and barely remembered anything besides the historic farmhouse that I always wanted to play in, but the kids LOVE it. They have this really wonderful “playground” that isn’t a playground in any typical sense, but it’s almost better because it just gives them space to explore the natural world and get dirty. Kristin commented later that she loves seeing them with dirt under their fingernails; that’s kind of why we moved, after all. The big attraction at the playground is a big water tower with lots of faucets that can be turned on, creating an instant puddle/river to splash and play in. Jude was totally enthralled. To our surprise, Vivi wasn’t into it and didn’t seem to want to get dirty, but the boys were all about it. Vivi was more into playing with gravel and sticks.




That look is exactly how she felt about the water.



This guy, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough. If you can’t tell, he is soaked. He’s basically sitting in a river, and it didn’t occur to us to bring a change of clothes. Check out that smile under his cap as he throws handfuls of sand into the water.


And that tongue sticking out as he tries to balance? I can hardly stand it.




We then headed across the street to the small farm that’s also a part of the Nature Center. It had just closed when we arrived, but they let us poke around for a bit anyway.



Notice Vivi in that picture?


Too bad I was too busy taking pictures to notice she’d fallen off and was hanging by her pants. There’s no good clean fun like playing on dangerous farm equipment. #goodparenting





It’s honestly a miracle that she hasn’t been bitten by a wild animal yet. She is fearless and almost lost a finger to a rooster twice on this visit.

I’m sure we’ll be spending a lot of time here, and I’m looking forward to all of the dirty adventures to come. There’s a festival at the farmstead in a couple of weeks and I’ll be curious to see if the kids are as into the old farm house as I was.

The final days of summer

This morning I dropped the kids off at their brand new day care / preschool and, despite the demands of work, could not stop wondering how they were doing all day long. Much like our house, we chose this center without ever having visited it (we were under the impression that we needed to enroll by February or risk losing spots at any place that was especially popular). We did end up visiting last April when we came to look for a house, and felt OK about it, but we still worried that perhaps it wasn’t the right choice for our kids (and our dollar). Kristin took the kids for a couple of visits this summer and ended up feeling pretty good after sitting down with the woman in charge, so I felt hopeful. Still, I was anxious all day yesterday and didn’t sleep well, and I’m sure that it’s because I was so worried about how things would go. I have so many fears about them not making friends and other kids being mean, and sending them off to a big center full of kids feels so much scarier to me than sending them to Gladys ever did (although I think that there’s a good bit of revisionist history there as well). The twins are probably too young to have registered any anxiety leading up to this morning, but I worried about Jonah and apparently didn’t need to. He woke up in a good mood, and when we pulled into the parking lot and I climbed into the back of the minivan to unclip his car seat he said “I think it’s going to be a good first day at school.” I needed that. We came inside and everyone there made me feel better, it felt like a truly warm and friendly place. Jonah seemed just fine, Vivi was much clingier than I’d expected, but Jude seemed happy as a clam. We probably have a bit more adjusting to do, but I think they’re going to be OK. I think it’s the right spot for them. They all came home sweaty and dirty (Jonah most of all) and Jonah seemed to LOVE his day. Vivi acted like she hadn’t been given a drop of liquid all day (I probably should have told her teachers that she only asks for water in Spanish? Oops), but we can fix that.

Back to Labor Day weekend though. My sister and the kids came up from Charleston for a long weekend visit, and it was probably the most fun Jonah’s had since our move. He really doesn’t have any friends here yet, and while at his age that’s not a huge loneliness factor (since kids his age often play in parallel rather than truly playing together anyway) I realized how much I’ve missed seeing him play with friends as I watched his joy with his cousin M. So many times throughout the weekend, my mom commented sarcastically “It’s too bad they don’t like each other” – they are practically inseparable.



We spent Saturday in South Haven, and I didn’t realize until we got there that the twins have never been there before. It’s been such a big part of my Michigan life and Jonah even knows it well, but because my parents sold their cottage last summer, we’ve never vacationed there with the twins. It was nice to see all of the kids enjoying the sand and the freezing cold edge of the water.






It occurred to us on Sunday evening that we ought to try to get a photo of the cousins together. We tried this right after F was born, when we were visiting Charleston, and it resulted in a hilariously awful series of photos that Kira turned into a very funny Christmas ornament. Given that experience, our expectations were low, but by some miracle we ended up with some pretty wonderful photos.



I sure wish their cousins lived a lot closer because these kiddos are a lot of fun and I love them to pieces. It was a nice way to wrap up a summer that’s been mostly busy and not very vacation-like.