Where does the time go?

Jack graduated from high school today. Our last born, the only son, the baby of the family. When our girls graduated I found comfort that although I was sad about them growing up, at least I still had Jack at home.

first day of kindergarten

first day of senior year

After 8 years of having Katie active in band, I was happy that Jack was also in band and I didn’t have to say goodbye to football games and band concerts quite yet. When Cassie graduated and moved out, I knew we still had Jack to keep us active in community theater. I had one kid left to watch onstage. We still had time.

We are out of time now. No more kids left in school. No more “at last we still have…”. This is so final. Today’s graduation ceremony was the hardest for me. It was hard not to have my mom there too. This is our first family event without her and I felt the loss. Unlike his sisters, Jack will not have a cap and gown picture with my mom.

Tonight is our last night at the Howell house together. Tomorrow he moves into his apartment and in less than a week we move too. Katie came down for the weekend so we have her here tonight with us. We have a few boxes to finish packing and then we’ll get pizza and watch a movie.

I look at them and I’m trying not to cry. I am picturing them when they were little. In their cute pajamas, asking to stay up late and watch a movie with us. Eating popcorn and snuggling with their blankies. It all goes so fast!

preschool graduation


high school graduation

We’ve done what we set out to do. Raise happy, smart, independent kids. THEY are all excited about their new lives, WE are excited to be empty nesters and get on with out next chapter too.  This is what every parent wants.

But tonight, at this moment I am remembering when they were little and this seemed so far away. When the 5 of us had years of bedtime routines and tuck ins ahead of us. When I used to read Jack a bedtime story, usually “Are you My Mother” and snuggle with him after. He would giggle and say “Mom- this is a one sleeper. You have to sleep with dad!”. And he would clutch Pup, his little blue stuffed dog and I would kiss his cute little forehead and say goodnight.

How is it possible he is all grown up and moving into his own place already?  He will ALWAYS be my baby.  {Even though he reminds me all the time that he is grown up}. I’m always going to worry about him, whether we lived in the same house or 2.5 hours away that wouldn’t change.  He may be a big, tough firefighter to others.  But it my eyes he is just my little Jack Jack, waiting for his bedtime story.



Tawas Point State Park

Here it is, a whole post dedicated to one of my favorite places!  Being born and raised in Michigan I’ve been lucky enough to grow up going to wonderful state and metroparks.  I’ve seen what other states have to offer and trust me when I say we Michiganders are spoiled!  Our state parks are the best I’ve seen and my favorite of all is our very own Tawas Point State Park.


Located about 3.5 miles from downtown East Tawas, the Point is very accessible.  You can bike or walk there; it is located at one end of a 13 mile bike trail that begins down near Alabaster, just south of Tawas City.  You can take a boat there; the shallow, sandy hook is very popular with boaters.  It the summer it is not uncommon to see a pontoon party out at the tip of the point.  And of course you can drive there, you will need an annual recreation passport.

Tawas Point is often referred to as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest” because of the sandy beach and winds that are very popular with kiteboarders and windsurfers.

The park offers a beautiful campground with nice size sites, cabins, a yurt, a beach, a dog beach, playground, a field for playing frisbee or tossing around a ball and a paved path that leads directly to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse is no longer operational as the point has grown over a mile since it was built and the Coast Guard has a new light out at the current tip of the point.  Even though the light it not operational, it is still a very impressive building. You can take seasonal tours and go up to the top and see for miles on a clear day.  There are special events at the lighthouse throughout the year as well such as a Halloween party, native plant sale and you can even see it decorated for Christmas with period decorations.  I’ve even purchased a few bricks along the pathway. The money goes towards helping fund lighthouse projects and now there is a small part of me connected to that area that we love so much.

Bird watchers from all over the Midwest come to the Point.  This year during the annual birding festival in May over 170 species of birds was spotted! There are viewing and feeding stations set up for great photo ops.  In addition to the birds there are deer, fox, and a variety of other small woodland creatures.  There is a 2 mile nature loop that will take you along the beach, woods and open areas.  Lots of opportunities to see some wildlife.

In addition to the campground, lighthouse and nature trail…there is a nice beach area with a bathhouse and seasonal snack shack.  They have great food and even live music on occasion. This beach faces the open water so the waves can get pretty big sometimes. You can walk for miles along the beach if you want to venture out to the tip of the point. It’s a natural beach, not a groomed one, so you will have sticks and other things that wash up from the water. The amount of beach changes depending on the lake levels as well so keep that in mind. If you are staying at the campground there is a bayside beach where the water is calmer if you prefer.

A couple of other interesting things about the Point. It is GORGEOUS in the winter!  It is my FAVORITE place to go and take pictures of the ice. It looks like shards of glass and is something you don’t want to miss.  Also, even though we are known as the “Sunrise Side” if you go out to the Point you can catch a beautiful SUNSET over the bay.

There it is. All of the reasons why I love Tawas Point State Park and why I became actively involved in the Friends of the Lighthouse and State Park group that helps with events and maintenance. The park is a local treasure and I want to help preserve it for future generations to enjoy.  ** Please note, this post is entirely about my own experiences at the park and not in any way an official guide**

For more information about the park check out the following links…

Tawas Point State Park

Shoreline Visitors Guide

Recreational Information




The Final Stretch

We are less than 3 weeks away from our big move.  We checked off the last big thing on our list, finding our son an apartment.  I’m not sure who is more excited and nervous, us or him!  There are a lot of things to wrap up around  here besides the last of the packing. We just finished up the graduation announcements, senior pictures and his last band banquet.  Still to come is the final band concert, senior walk out and Graduation.  Our son is graduating and moving into his own place in the same weekend. That is a whole lot of emotion in a short amount of time. I can’t spend too much time thinking about that right now.  “I’ll think about that tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day“.

I’ve been hard at work packing up my dresser drawers and closets, getting rid of things that I haven’t used in years. Part of that process involves getting rid of things you are keeping for the wrong reason. Do I really need every greeting card I’ve ever been given? How about that disposable camera from 1992 that I never used? Why the heck do I have 3 partial bottles of shampoo and 5 bottles of nail polish so old they have solidified in the back of my bathroom closet? When was the last time I used hot rollers? IT’S BEEN YEARS, WILL I EVER FIND THE OTHER SOCK?  I was pretty brutal and tossed out much more than I kept.

I’ve got a vision of perfectly organized closets and drawers in our new place.  We have a small space and I need to make sure everything we are taking can be neatly stored away. So imagine how excited I was to discover The Container Store.  A store that has perfectly lined shelves filled with color coordinated organizational tools.  Baskets, boxes, tubs and totes.  It was amazing. I’m a freak, I know. But I will be a freak with awesome closets!

Next week I attack my  bedroom closet. I have a wide range of clothing sizes in there and I need to be realistic and do a lot of donating. I don’t have space to keep “some day” things anymore. If I can’t see myself wearing it in the next 6 months it is not coming with me. I can tell you one thing though, I am going to be really upset it I find that damn sock in there!

22 Things Every Michigander Understands

Most of us have seen versions of this, but I put together this collection of my own favorite “how you know you are from Michigan” statements.

1-When people ask us where we are from we point to our hand.

2- We measure distance by time, not miles. It’s 3 hours from Detroit to Holland. 4 hours from Ann Arbor to the Mackinac Bridge.

3- Speaking of Mackinac; The Bridge and Island are spelled Mackinac, the city is spelled Mackinaw. Both spellings are pronounced the same way.

4- We grew up with Vernors, Jiffy corn bread, Better Made Chips, Superman ice cream, Sanders bumpy cake and Faygo.

5– We proudly call our soft drinks POP, not soda!

6- We often have all 4 seasons in the same week. We can wear shorts one day and a winter coat the next. Or sometimes both at the same time. It’s not even a big deal to us.

7- When we go on vacation, it’s usually “Up North”. Which means the Northern lower peninsula. The Upper Peninsula is north of that, but we just call it the U.P.

8- It is not uncommon for parts of the U.P to get snow in May.

9- Whether we support U of M or MSU, we all hate Ohio State!

10- In fact, the only reason we go to Ohio at all is Cedar Point.

11- Hell does freeze over here every winter. People love to take pictures with the sign that welcomes you to the town of Hell in Livingston County.

12- Michigan beaches are the best. No salt, no sharks. They may be cold but we just consider them “refreshing”.

13- If you live in the U.P you are know as a Yooper. If you live in the lower peninsula you are a troll (as in you live under the bridge).

14- We play a card game call Euchre. You grow up watching the adults play and when you finally get to play with them it is a major rite of passage.

15- A Party store is where you buy beer, lottery tickets, jerky and bait. You do NOT go there for streamers and balloons.

16- Tigers Opening Day and the First day of Hunting Season may as well be national holidays.

17- On some roads in Michigan we have to turn right to go left. These are called Michigan lefts. It’s not that hard but seems to really confuse vistors.

18- Despite dealing with almost constant construction our roads are a disaster.

19- A pasty (rhymes with nasty) is not something strippers use, it is a delicious meat and vegetable portable pie.

20- Mackinac Island Fudge is the best fudge ever! Others may say they have it, but it is NOT the same as when you get it on the island.

21- We have over 11,000 inland lakes and you are never more than 85 miles from a Great Lake! Boating, fishing, swimming, kayaking, tubing, windsurfing, kiteboarding. We LOVE our lakes !!

22- We are Smitten with our Mitten and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else! Even with the cold winters and terrible roads we can’t imagine calling anywhere else HOME.

One Step Closer

The house seems very strange today. Our oldest daughter moved out into her own place last week.  Our middle daughter moved out 3 years ago and I remember how hard that adjustment was. She moved to NYC and we cried through 2 states after we dropped her off. We were very glad she ended up coming back to Michigan. She lived with us again for awhile before moving out for good. It was sad when she left for the last time. But this just feels different.

Maybe it’s because Katie is the oldest.  She had lived at home for 25 years. That’s a LONG time to have someone under your roof.  She’s also a homebody. Katie prefers staying home and hanging out with the family to going out to clubs or parties.  So to NOT have her around the house feels really strange.  It also leaves me as the lone female in the house for the first time since I became a mom. The girls and I outnumbered the boys the whole time they were growing up.  Even when Cassie left, at least we were even. Now it’s just me. Alone. In a male dominated house. Ugh.  What if they rebel and decide to start leaving the toilets seats up?!?!

I didn’t think it would affect me all that much to be honest.  We have one foot out the door ourselves with our own move.  And I’ve got so much to do in the next month that it doesn’t leave me a lot of down time.  But here I am, missing my girl.  I keep a white board on the fridge that we put our weekly schedules on and there is just an empty space where her name used to be. Her room is empty and quiet. There are only 3 of us now to make dinners for. Someone else has to start emptying the dishwasher!

I suspect I am feeling a little more emotional and sentimental these days because I just lost my mom. Ever since then it’s like I am feeling things more deeply. Appreciating people more. So “losing” one of them is hard.  I can only imagine what my emotions will be like next month.  Jack is our youngest and is graduating high school. He’s moving into a place of his own here while we move 2.5 hours away. That is a lot of big things happening all at once!  I’m gonna need lots of tissue and hugs!

As excited as I am for Chad and I to start our “honeymoon/empty nest” chapter, part of me is very emotional about the family being spread so far apart.  We have lots of plans to get together as often as possible.  But it won’t be the same.  My brain says this is what is SUPPOSE to happen. You raise your kids to be strong and independent. To be able to make it on their own. We’ve done exactly what I set out to do. I can’t let my heart dwell on the past and get weighed down with all the memories and sad thoughts. There are fun times to be had and new memories to make.







A Love Letter to Howell

Up until now I have been talking about how great my NEW home will be, how much I love Tawas Bay and how excited we are to be moving on to our next adventure.  But I would be doing my current hometown a huge disservice if I didn’t give it a big shout out.  I LOVE HOWELL !!

Chad and I both grew up in Wayne county.  While there are a lot of great things about living so close to a big city, we wanted something different for our family. Someplace where you would run into people you knew when you were downtown.  Somewhere where there actually WAS a downtown.  We scouted out a few options and ended up picking Howell and I am so thankful we did.

Howell has a wonderful, thriving downtown area with small shops, restaurants and parks.  It has only gotten better since we have lived here.  We are about an hour from downtown Detroit, 30 minutes from Ann Arbor and about 40 from Lansing.  Close enough that we don’t miss out on sporting events, concerts or shows.

We are known for our big festivals like Balloonfest, Melon Fest and our Fantasy of Lights parade that kicks off the holiday season.  All of that is great, but I like the things people may not realize even more.  We have a great little lake less than a mile from downtown.Thompson lake is an all sports lake with a boat launch, beach, and a city park where you can rent pavilions for your special events.  We have spent a lot of time boating and celebrating there.

The schools here are also great.  All 3 of our kids were here from elementary school to graduation and they excelled.  The teachers and support staff always go above and beyond for the kids.  There are great programs…Katie was in the culinary arts program and helps run the school restaurant before heading off to earn her Culinary Arts degree.  Cassie was part of the school paper and now she has a degree from MSU in journalism and is working as a reporter.  Jack is graduating high school and has already earned his Firefighter I and II and has been working at the fire department for the last 6 months thanks to the high school Fire Academy.  He is also enrolled in the EMT program and will be certified later this summer.

There is a baseball/softball community league for kids and all 3 of our kids were involved in.  Chad even coached.  We have made a lot of baseball friends and the kids knew most of the kids they played with from school.

Of course there are the big events:

Balloonfest is the end of June.  There is a carnival, arts and crafts, dog stunt shows, live entertainment but of course the big draw is the hot air balloons.  It brings in a lot of visitors, but those of us who live here can tell you that we have a lot of fun chasing the balloons around and watching them land. Many of us have even experienced and have pictures of them landing in our yards!

Melonfest is in August. The streets downtown are closed off and people come from all over for the events.  Melon chucking, live music, melon wine and special menus at the restaurants downtown.  Another Arts and Crafts show.  But the real star is the melon ice cream that only comes around once a year.  It is delicious!

The Fantasy of Lights parade is the day after Thanksgiving and we have been every year except for 1 in all the years we have lived here.  We usually have a kid marching in it for one reason or another.  The shops all decorate their storefronts and you walk around and vote on your favorite.  The town Christmas tree is lit, there is a place where kids can go see real reindeer and decorate sugar cookies.  Choirs are performing around town. We have been there in snow, rain, warm weather and everything in between!  It’s a great way to bring in the Christmas season.

Girl Scouts, baseball, community theater, bowling leagues, 4H programs, a community band.  There are a LOT of ways to get involved and get to know people here.  You can live in town and walk to everything or you can have acreage outside of town and drive in when you want to socialize. There are housing options to fit every lifestyle.

If I could pick up this town and these people and move it to a Great Lake I would have. This town welcomed us and was an AMAZING place to raise our family. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one town and I consider this my hometown. We have made lifelong friends here and I will visit often.  When people ask me where I am from, I will proudly say Howell.