Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grandma Mary

Mary McNair
1920 - 2010
(I took this photo at her 90th birthday party in November.)

You may remember when, back in June, I wrote about my grandma going into hospice. Well, yesterday morning at about 6:30 she passed quietly in her sleep. And while I my logical side knows it's what she's wished for each and every day for the past seven months, I'm still deeply saddened by her death. I'm trying hard to be strong - for my little ones; I must remember they've lost a grandma, too.

That was the hardest part about it - telling my own children. My daughter began to cry immediately. "Grandma can't die," she got out between sniffles, "I love her." It took longer to sink into my son; he didn't start crying for a minute or two, but then sobbed, and I mean sobbed, for 45 minutes. Then the questions began:

"How did she die?"

"Did she what to be cremated?"

"Where is she right now?"

"Where will they put her?"

These all stem from the loss of our good friend last winter. Somehow I know that losing Karen helped prepare them for this loss, not that you can really be prepared to lose someone you love. But they, my son (who is six) at least, understands that dying means that person is gone and we'll not see them again. The book When Dinosaurs Die has been a big help as well. If you have children and you don't own this book, you should get it.

So we've been talking a lot about keeping Grandma Mary alive in our hearts and remembering all the special things about her:

How she let them ride on her scooter and how they loved to race up and down the hallway where she lived. How she always seemed to have a sweet treat for them when they visited, and most importantly, how her face lit up when they walked into her room. They brought great joy into her life and she loved them so very much.

I am trying to remember that despite how much my heart aches today, my children and I are the luckiest of all Mary's grandchildren. Of her 16 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, (who are spread out over six states and three continents,) my children and I were the only ones who got to see her on a regular basis. We were a part of her life and she a part of ours and the memories we have make the tears bearable.

Good-bye Grandma Mary. We love you. And while I know you were a staunch atheist and did not believe in an afterlife of any kind, if you happen to discover that you were incorrect I hope you have a comfortable chair, a very sharp pencil, and an unending supply of crossword puzzles from the New York Times...

Friday, December 24, 2010


Some days I just have to pinch myself.
How lucky I am to live on Mackinac.

I hope all your holiday wishes
come true this year...

Monday, December 20, 2010

He Sees You When You're Sleeping

As I was culling the catalogue pile the other day, I came across these; two catalogues in which virtually every item had been circled. When I asked my son about it he told me, "It's so Santa will know what to bring me."

Apparently he thinks he's been really really good this year...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Handed Down

I love hand-me-downs. Love them; and this one has been quite popular lately. My cousin sent this beautiful doll house home with us last summer (along with a giant tub of trains.) The trains were an immediate hit, but the doll house has languished in my daughter's closet. She was so completely uninterested in it that I actually considered returning it.

I'm not sure exactly what happened, but something changed. Over the past two weeks or so the doll house has been incredibly popular - with both of the kids. Which totally makes me smile. I love toys like this; the ones that just beg the kids to use their imaginations; one minute it is a hamster habitat, the next it is home to a horse family. I wonder what they'll think of next?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thank You

Dearest Santa,
Thank you,

thank you,

thank you!
Thanks to all this wonderful snow, Mackinac
is sure to have a white Christmas this year.



Friday, December 10, 2010

An Open Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

Please send Mackinac Island some snow. I'm certain you can imagine just how cold it is riding a bicycle in nine degrees weather. Not to mention the challenge of keeping a bicycle upright on icy patches. I tried asking Mother Nature to drop a few inches, but as of yet she has been unwilling to cooperate. I thought dressing up as Frosty the Snowman for the Boyne City Santa parade this year might help, and it did; the Boyne / Petoskey area got quite a bit. Unfortunately, Mackinac didn't get more than a dusting. Santa, anything you could do to get some snow to Mackinac Island would be much appreciated.



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Old Man Winter

We came home this weekend to a smidgen of snow. Not much really, perhaps an inch or so on the grass. So, of course, the kids didn't want to come inside when we got off the taxi. This was the first snow of the season! Well, it was the first snow of the season that didn't melt away as soon as it hit the ground, and it was calling to them.

About twenty five minutes later a very proud little boy poked his head in the front door and asked, "Mama, do you have any buttons I can use?" 

"Of course, what do you want them for?" I asked. 

"My snowman needs eyes. Leaves aren't working! Every time I put them on him his head explodes," he answered.

"I'll be out in a minute," I said as I went up to my sewing room to dig out some appropriate buttons.  While I was looking for just the right set of eyes he came in again and yelled up the stairs, "When you come out will you please bring your camera? I want a picture of my snowman."

Like mother, like son - I already had it around my neck...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Glimpse

Here it is - the photo I promised of the new trees. The gentlemen planting them told me they are a hybrid maple called "Autumn Blaze" and they'll be a beautiful red color next fall. They may be small now, but in 50 years they'll be just as majestic as their predecessors. (Some of which still remain - just look down the street.)

The tree guys also told me each tree is between eight and ten years old, and if I wanted a few for my front yard it would set me back between $350 and $400 each. But they're so worth it, don't you think? I think the street would look pretty naked without them...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How To Fix a Holy Shirt


Take that holy shirt.
You know, the shirt she ripped a hole in the very first time she wore it.

Add some cute fabric.

Finish with some creative placement and a little  raw-edge applique and voila! no more holes.
Of course, big brother needed a shirt too...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Note to Self

It's no longer a good idea to hide things up high where I think my daughter can't get at them, because she can. And even if she can't, she's going to try.

And, despite the fact that we've read Officer Buckle and Gloria numerous times, she completely ignored all of Officer Buckle's safety tips and stacked up those chairs to get at an item I had stashed on top of the china cabinet. (Thank goodness she didn't use a swivel chair! If that makes no sense to you, go get O.B. & G. from the library.) Guess I need a new - more out of sight - hiding place. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Doo

Apparently bangs really get in the way in kindergarten. My son went to school the other day looking like this:

but came home looking like this:

Thankfully, school pictures were taken a few weeks ago! He left the hair in his desk, so I made sure to nab it the next morning and put it into an envelope with an explanation. I slid it into his baby book, so hopefully he'll get a laugh out of it in about 20 years. I tried to even out the cut, but my cutting skills aren't up to par. He looked even worse after I'd worked on him, so we headed down to 7th Heaven, where Mike saved the day with the clippers.

So now he looks like this:

I'm still not use to it, but it's growing on both of us...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Double Arches Over Mackinac

No, McDonald's isn't opening a restaurant on the island, but we did get treated to a breathtaking double rainbow yesterday. Thank goodness I had my camera with me because I think I will enter this next shot in the Seasons of Mackinac calendar contest. This was the first time I have ever seen an entire rainbow. I just can't describe how amazing this one was; stretching all the way from the bridge to the Grand Hotel. It was probably the most impressive rainbow I've ever seen. (Even better than this one.)

It may not be Oz, but to me, Mackinac Island is just as magical. I am so lucky I get to call it home.

Now my brain has gone off on a tangent... I can't stop thinking about which island residents I would cast in each part if I were casting a new version of The Wizard of Oz. This is going to have me giggling all night long...

Monday, November 1, 2010


It's fall on Mackinac Island, and that means beautiful fall colors and the end of the tourist season. It also means vehicle permits can be issued for jobs that just can't be done with horse power. (Remember, motorized vehicles are illegal here.) Our City Council is quite careful - if a job can be done with horses they won't allow trucks to be used. However, some jobs just can't be done with horses; jobs like this and this:

The maple trees along Cadotte (the street that leads from town, past the school, and up to the Grand Hotel) are / were past their prime. Every year now it seems at least one looses a big branch during the island's strong fall and winter storms. So, sadly, it was time for many of them to come down. I knew it was only a matter of time, but I was surprised to see so many X's while we walked to town on Saturday.

I seem to remember my botanist friend telling me that these were Norway Maples and that they had a life span of only about 60 years. I could be remembering wrong, but I never really considered that trees had a "life span." I thought they just kept growing.

As of this morning, they were all done cutting...

and all the stumps had been ground out.

Now, all that's left to do is plant new trees.

I saw all of the new little trees, ready to plant, as I took my son to the Medical Center today (two ear infections - he'll be fine) but, of course, did I have my camera with me? No, it was sitting on the dining room table.

I'm still annoyed with myself...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blowing Like Stink

We've had gusts up to 60 mph (about 97 km/hr) today on the Straits of Mackinac. It's so windy that right now the bridge is closed to "high profile" traffic. That means they are only allowing cars, vans, and empty pick-up trucks to cross; everyone else has to wait until wind conditions improve.

This morning, it was so windy I actually had to peddle my bike down the hill to school. Coming home, on the other hand, wasn't too bad - the wind pushed me home...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bagels = Yummy

Yet another reason why I love this book...

The bagels are more time consuming than the bread since they have to be boiled first, but they're so worth it. Woe is me if I ever develop diabetes because I'll just about die if I have to lay off the bread and start counting carbs.

Enjoy your weekend!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


The diagnosis is official - nerve deafness.

My daughter has nerve deafness - thank goodness it is just in one ear. The diagnosis wasn't a surprise really - she failed her newborn hearing screening in that ear, so we've always known something was up. But the ENT and the audiologist insisted they couldn't get accurate results from a hearing test (you know, the one in the sound proof booth) until at least age four. She's now had two tests, six months apart that have shown the same results: she can hear very high frequencies and very low frequencies in that ear; but almost all human speech falls into the range of frequencies she can't hear.

I know the hearing loss effects her because of the little things she does. She refers to her good ear as "my listening ear" and has told me (while pointing accurately) "this ear doesn't work." This morning, while she was playing on the computer, she choose to only put the ear bud into the good ear. I thought the other one just fell out so I offered to help her put it in so it would stay. She assured me, "No Mama, I don't want it." O.K. - whatever works, I guess.

As of right now, life is good. She is already asking us to repeat things when she doesn't quite hear us. I'm sure "selective hearing" will start when she is a teenager, but she's not there yet. And as of this week there is an amplification system for her preschool classroom so the teacher's voice can be slightly louder than the din. The speech therapist is monitoring her and tells me her speech is "age appropriate." Apparently Ls, Fs and Ths are harder sounds to make and are often not perfected until later, so I shouldn't worry about her inability to make them correctly. But, of course, I do. I am her mama after all, it's my job to worry about her...

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Very Fairy Birthday

I love my son. Right now my son loves fairies. So, logically, when he told me he wanted a fairy themed birthday party, I agreed. (Two years ago he asked for a mermaid party. Blogged here and here.)

It all started when he saw this little cake topper at Wal-Mart back in August. When he saw it he immediately told his Papa that he wanted it on his birthday cake. Papa bought the cake, we enjoyed it for desert that night, packed her away in a safe place, and this little fairy became the inspiration for the birthday celebration.

Since fairies always make me think of flowers, we had yellow flowers everywhere; from the centerpiece, to the napkin rings...

to the cake. I made it and frosted it (yes, with some of that leftover frosting), but our good friend, Miranda, made the flowers. I can't believe how perfectly she got the yellow ones to match!

Of course, what Fairy Party would be complete without a dash of Tinkerbell? I was planning on making something for the wall, but I just couldn't leave this banner Wal-Mart when it was on clearance for $3.00. I certainly couldn't have made something for that price.

I didn't manage to get a photo of the fairy wings, but I did remember to get one of the tutu. (I used tutorials from here, and here.) He loved it. Thank goodness his sister had no interest in hers, because she let him wear it after his got covered in milk. At first he was disappointed that he didn't get a crown this year. But after I reminded him that he did get wings and a tutu, he decided that was really better than just a crown.

Of course, no birthday in these parts is complete without a new birthday shirt. (I used my raw edge technique.) When my son looks at it, he sees a fairy, but the rest of the world sees a dragonfly. (Which is a good thing when lots of the people in your small rural town just don't "get" how a little boy can like fairies; after all, they're supposed to like trucks.)

I'm glad he hasn't given into the "supposed tos." I adore him just the way he is: my doll and book loving, fairy party wanting, Sound of Music singing, snake catching, roughhousing, so skinny it's hard to get pants to fit him, little man. I wouldn't have him any other way...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Heart Homemade Shopping Bags

I made more of these. I had collected ten pair of rain / wind / athletic pants (from my favorite "donation only" thrift shop) that were taking up valuable storage space in my sewing room. It was time for them to get transformed into shopping bags. I had a couple oxfords I couldn't use for these so they got transformed as well. And let me tell you, it was great to make something other than mittens. They have been all consuming of late - like every moment of my spare time has gone to making them. I am so looking forward to working on costumes! (A pink dinosaur and a stick man, if you're wondering.)

I know I can purchase bags for a buck or two at most stores, but shouldn't they really pay me to advertise for them? I'd rather make my own instead. And knowing that mine are recycled just makes them that much better.

They may not be the most attractive bags, (let me tell you - those turquoise pants were hideous!) but they're super easy; I'd say less than 20 minutes each. I made eleven of them other day. Add those to the two I already made and I got out of the grocery store for the first time ever without using one of their plastic shopping bags. There's only one downside - I just realized I don't have any bags to scoop the litter box into! Any suggestions?

Monday, October 4, 2010


Have you ever seen something that struck you as really odd? This little fly did just that the other day. I noticed it in the bay window in the back of my classroom. I have a table back there with lots of plants and often I spill a little when I water them. That fly must have been really really thirsty because it stayed near those little droplets for over 40 minutes. It would suck up a drop and then move on to the next one. Even with me crouching overhead to get close-up pictures - it didn't so much as flinch. I've never seen a fly behave that way before. Have you?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It Takes a Village... make and frost enough cupcakes for an island wedding.

You've got to love it when an entire community comes together. Recently a local gal, Kelly, got married. She didn't want anything fancy at the reception so she opted for cupcakes instead of a big cake. About 400 cupcakes! So another friend, Wendy, organized everyone, passed out two dozen paper cupcake liners to each person, and told us all when to bring the cupcakes as well as our icing bags and tips to the Mackinac Island Community Hall for a good old-fashioned cupcake decorating party. (I'm doubtful that islanders of old held cupcake decorating parties, but who knows.)

It did not take the 15 of us long to frost the bazillion cupcakes with the giant 45 pound vat of frosting Wendy brought down. Trust me, I'm not exaggerating when I use the word "vat."

We island girls are nothing if not prepared! Wendy knew we couldn't just pop home to whip up another batch if we ran out, so she intentionally over estimated the amount of icing needed per cupcake - just to make sure we'd have enough. Believe it or not, there was more icing that just isn't in the picture.

It worked out well for me. I brought home four one-gallon size zip-lock bags of it home to use on my son's birthday cake and there was still about 25 pounds of leftover frosting, so we had to have a few samples. Nothing like a sugar buzz to get you ready for the one mile, up hill, bike ride home.

Monday, September 20, 2010


As I was driving the other day, I noticed these sunflowers growing by the side of the road near my parent's house. The light was just perfect, so of course, I had to stop and take a few pictures. My dad is going to love this one - I'm certain that's one of his bees.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A New Begining

My little guy started kindergarten this fall. He loves it, but tells his little sister, "It's much harder than pre-school." He's so excited to get up each day and always has lots of exciting news to share as the two of us walk home together. I know we're only a week into the school year, but I feel like he's off to a good start. I'll be off to a good start after I sit through his teacher's Back to School Night presentation tomorrow - it's the first time I get to sit in one of those small chairs instead of standing while I present to parents. When I taught kindergarten I use to make parents write with their feet to help them experience the motor control most five year-olds have in their hands, so I am quite curious what she has in store for us. I'm really looking forward to experiencing the other side of the table, but just to be safe, last night I painted my toenails...

On Mackinac Island we have half day kindergarten - in the afternoon only. The first graders come alone in the mornings and then the kindergartners join them for the afternoon. This year the K-1 class is BIG; there are 15 in there! I've taught on the island for 18 years and the average class (two elementary grades together) I've had is about 10.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

You Gotta Love Mom

My mom spent several days at my house recently helping me make mittens, mittens and more mittens. We took over the dining room and turned it into our own little mitten making factory. Between the two of us, we got 75 pair into various stages of completeness. The only down side to the whole thing was moving all those felted sweaters back upstairs into my sewing room; moving them downstairs was so much easier! It was really nice to spend one on one time with my mom. To show my appreciation for her hours of cutting and sewing, we went out to dinner here (which was fabulous.) I am hoping I can get her to come back once a month to help me all winter. Though when she comes in February, the dining choices on Mackinac will be much more limited. (That time of year only three restaurants are usually open.
Thanks mom! I really appreciate all your help.
bribe her

Friday, September 3, 2010

From Bag to Little Boy's Shirt

When I saw this tutorial, I had to try it. And let me tell you, it was a piece of cake. Now, I just need to find some more interesting plastic bags. The one I used for my son's new shirt was from one of Mackinac Island's fudge shops. My son was thrilled to have a shirt with his name on it. Unfortunately, I have yet to find bags with all the letters in my daughter's name; much to her dismay. When S wears his shirt I am immediately asked, "When will I get my shirt Mama?" It's so hard to be patient when you're four...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mackinac: Where Horse is King

Both my children have been taking riding lessons through the 4-H program here on Mackinac and they love it.

I love that they are not just learning how to ride but how to take care of a horse as well. Horses are more than just riding - they're a lot of work!

My son loves riding the horse,

but my daughter loves telling the horse what she wants it to do.

Luckily Blaze is the prefect little horse for them to learn on, and their teacher, Leanne, has been fantastic. Riding has been one of the best parts of our summer. Sadly, tomorrow will be their last lesson. But Blaze will be on the island all winter, so I am fairly certain we'll stop by the barn occasionally with a carrot or two...