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Making the Most of your Small Camper Space

Making the most of your small camper space…can you relate?

You’ve heard the term “everything but the kitchen sink”? Well, that’s how I pack for a trip.

My husband likes to use the term “we roll heavy” and now even has my son repeating the phrase.

From clothing to food, I like to be prepared for anything that happens during our trips. This is especially true when camping.

camperWe recently returned from our most recent camping trip {with our camper} to the west side of the state. And, in true Michigan fashion, the weather was unpredictable. I packed everything from swimsuits and raincoats to gloves and hats and we used just about all of it.

camperHowever, packing all that “stuff” into our little pop-up camper can be a challenge.

Luckily, I’ve found a few tried and true storage hacks to make the most out of your tiny camper space:

1. Mesh Laundry Bags 

Nothing is worse than stinky camping laundry! So where do you keep it? I’ve tried numerous options and found what worked best for our family is a foldable mesh laundry bag. It can collapse and store easily when not being used. Plus it can hold a lot while not holding in the smell.

2. Shelving Unit

We have an unconventional camping companion on our trips, our tortoise, Mortimer. The problem is that Mortie’s tank takes up a lot of counter space. Thus, we came up with this solution. Mortie has his space and we can use the top shelves for storing our duffel bags of clothes. Toiletry bags can also be hung from the shelving unit.

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3. Collapsible Bin

This was an awesome Christmas gift from my in-laws. It can be used for so many things but I found the best use for us is storing shoes. That way we are not constantly tripping over flip flops, water shoes, rain boots, etcetera in the camper.

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4. Stacking Storage Bins

These are an awesome dollar store find and can be used in so many ways. I purchased four, one for each member of our family, and keep them by the sink. It offers an easy and quick way for everyone to store their toothbrush, medicines, and any other toiletries for the camper trip. camper

5. Storage Tower

During our most recent camping trip, we discovered our ceiling vent leaks. The leak happened to be right over where I had all our dried foods.

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The good news was it happened on our last day of camping so I didn’t lose too much food. Even though my husband fixed the leak, I wanted to find a better way to store our dry goods. Entered the handy storage tower. This allows me to not only keep food dry but sort and pack food prior to our trip more efficiently.

Are you a camper?
Share your best tips + tricks with me, and we’ll add them to this list!

Meet Jodie, A Galactosemia Advocate Thriving on Transparency

Hi! I’m Jodie, a new contributor for Mid-Michigan Moms and a Galactosemia advocate thriving on transparency. I was born and raised in Saginaw. Since graduating from Central Michigan University {Fire Up, Chips!}, I have worked full-time in the world of corporate communications for 15 years. 

Galactosemia mom

I live in Williamston with my husband Chris and three girls: Francesca, and twins, Amelia and Annabelle. On any given day if you stop by to say “hi” you’ll find a doormat that says “hope you brought wine”, 1-3 children will greet you at the door and want to show you everything they own and every {usually mundane} thing they can do, and you’ll hear my husband and me debating who is funnier {spoiler alert: it’s me} or having a way too in-depth conversation about something grammar related. 

Galactosemia mom

I’ve always loved to write – from my first poem in second grade to creative writing in high school to switching my major in college from elementary education to journalism after getting excited about a 10-page paper assignment {and realizing I was more interested in decorating the classroom than actually teaching in it.}

I have blogged for years – starting with documenting my online dating nightmares to my medical journey with epilepsy and brain surgery {two, actually} to my infertility and miscarriage to documenting the current chaos of life as a working mom of three. 

I’m also a mama of two rare disease kiddos and a galactosemia advocate. I know, you probably haven’t heard of it – neither had I before my oldest daughter {7} was born. And by this point, you won’t be surprised to know…I have a blog about that too!

I am on the Galactosemia Foundation board where I advocate for my girls by raising awareness, supporting research, and creating educational opportunities. Galactosemia is a disorder that prevents a person from processing the sugar galactose, which is found in many foods.

Galactosemia Some other important things to know about me – I love Jesus but I cuss a little {read: a lot}, I’m a grammar geek who edits things for fun, I run on caffeine until wine is acceptable, I can recite almost every line of the movie GREASE and I tend to put a humorous spin on everything.

Life is more fun when you’re laughing – even when sometimes it’s just to keep from crying {but crying is okay too.}

I thrive on transparency – I’m not going to help anyone, including myself, by sugarcoating parenting {or any other journey}. Don’t get me wrong – I love being a mom, but sometimes it’s a lot. Thankfully, my husband and my village make it manageable. With me, you’ll always get the real story – sometimes good, sometimes bad, but almost always guaranteed to make you laugh. 

Galactosemia I’m so excited to learn from the incredible moms across Michigan. I look forward to offering a larger audience a front-row seat to our life full of laughter, love, and chaos and hopefully grow my village in the process. 

You can follow my blog at justjoders.blogspot.com and our rare disease journey at galactosemiagirl.blogspot.com.

Meet Lexis, An Outdoor Enthusiast Raising her Family in a Wild, Modern World

Hi, I’m Lexis! I’m excited to be a new contributor for Mid-Michigan Moms and to join you all on the crazy ride that is motherhood.

My husband Cole and I are the proud parents of a wild little toddler named Reese and an energetic dog named Nova. We live in North-Central Michigan in the rural area outside of Mt. Pleasant, where I was born and raised. I’m hoping I can connect with and provide inspiration and information for all the other moms in this wonderful community. 

Motherhood for me is a constant motivator for personal growth. It’s hard to get too comfortable as a mom because each new phase requires a whole new perspective and skill set.

I was cruising through the infant stage with my head in the clouds and then the toddler phase hit me like a truck. My daughter is wild, risky, energetic, and curious. We expected nothing less as her father and I were both wild children and adventurous teenagers. We were the type who packed our cars after high school to take on the {modern} wild west and spread our wings on solo adventures away from the nest. After separate journeys, we connected over our thirst for adventure and ultimately went from long-distance friends to serious life partners. We lived in southern Colorado for several years before we moved back to the area we both grew up, here in Central Michigan.  

I absolutely love Michigan. The seasons, the lakes, forests, rivers, small towns, and rolling fields are just so magical. I am an outdoor enthusiast and spend time outside every day. I believe there is no bad weather, just improper clothing! My passion for the outdoors led me to pursue a degree in Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services Administration from Central Michigan University with a focus in Outdoor Recreation.

I now work full-time as a Development & Outreach Coordinator for a local land trust called Chippewa Watershed Conservancy (CWC). I do a lot of administrative work but also get to lead a monthly women’s hiking group, explore and photograph nature for our social media, and enjoy the nature preserves owned by CWC for various other tasks.

I am adamant about getting my daughter outside to play and connect with nature. One of my family’s favorite things to do is explore beautiful outdoor areas that we have never seen before. Hiking is one of my main hobbies and if I can’t hike I try to get a run or walk in {preferably on a back road}. Some of my favorite places to hike are in the U.P. along the North Country Trail and my family loves to vacation anywhere up north. 

I am extremely enthusiastic about health and fitness, which works well with our outdoor-focused lifestyle.

Post-partum body changes were really hard for me and after 2.5 years of working on my mental and physical health, I’m finally coming to terms with my body’s journey through motherhood and feeling stronger than ever. 

As an Aries, I love taking on new challenges and am currently working on completing the #75Hard challenge. I love to share my fitness journey on my Instagram account @lexis_hansen to stay motivated and hopefully inspire other moms along the way. I also love finding healthy new recipes that meet my nutrition goals and that my whole family will still enjoy. I love a good farmer’s market or local farm stand for picking up fresh produce.

Along with physical fitness, I really focus on mental health and personal growth. You can often find me listening to a podcast, reading non-fiction to learn to be like the people I admire or listening to a sermon on YouTube. I love to learn new things about the human experience and consider myself a student of life. My goal every day is to live in gratitude and be aware of my perspective. 

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When I’m not chasing my toddler, working, or getting my daily reps in I try to hold on to the wild adventurous woman I was before becoming “mama”. Traveling to new places is my favorite and I try to plan a vacation every so often where I can just pack a backpack and hop on a plane. I love true crime documentaries and can binge-watch a series like nobody’s business. I also love reading gripping mystery novels, especially if I’m in a hammock.  I may or may not spend too much on concert tickets every year, because good live music justifies splurging, right? I love a good kombucha, a song that gives me chills, and a night around a bonfire {preferably all three at the same time}.

I hope my writing can offer some comedy, inspiration, support, and perspective for other moms in our region. I’m excited for the opportunity to connect with other women who are living in this beautiful region and trying to raise our families in this wild, modern world!

 

How the Pandemic Saved My Social Life

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The COVID-19 pandemic saved my social life.

I know, I know. This sounds ridiculous, but hear me out.

socialGetting together with friends is something I’ve always loved doing, even as someone who is primarily an introvert, but maybe more of an ambivert. While social situations can still be pretty draining for me, I love having the opportunity to get dressed up, go out, and just hang out with grown-ups for a while.

But, as a parent, in order to make that social time happen, we had to coordinate a date {preferably not a school or work night}, line up childcare, shop for or make a dish to pass, get dressed and ready {while being orbited by small children}, make sure the kids were fed before going out, and be home in time to put the kids to bed {or, if I decided to stay out late, operate the next day on too little sleep for when the kids inevitably woke up at the same time as they always do}.

And that was if we could even pick a date and time to get together in the first place.

It. Was. Work.

And if I’m being honest, when March 2020 rolled around, it had been a long while since we’d made the social schedule magic line up anyway.

And then everything stopped.

The beginning of the pandemic was rough. Like so many families, we were all adjusting to our new 24/7 home lives. My husband and I were suddenly both working from home, I was coordinating online kindergarten and nursing an infant, and we had no family or childcare to fall back on. Being home seemed like a dream come true for an introvert, but add in the fact that it was a scary, uncertain, mentally draining time, and no escaping it. On top of it all, people were having online social events like Zoom birthdays and virtual cocktail hours.

After a month or two, I didn’t care if I lost all my friends and never got onto a Zoom call ever again because I was BURNED OUT.

 

But life went on. We checked out for a while, found new routines, and settled in. Ironically, once I went back to in-person work it got a bit better. I was able to get out of the house once in a while and be social, plus we were able to get together with close family again and bring my kids’ grandparents into our bubble. And when my husband went back to in-person work, we had to depend on that bubble for childcare during the day.

And sometime since then, social media and online meet-ups started to feel less like a chore, and more like a blessing — even now, as things start to get closer to normal.

It’s been over a year of this, and I feel more social than I have in years. Even now, we’re still finding ways to meet up, even on short notice — both in-person and online. Oftentimes, all it takes is a group text, a Zoom meeting or Discord link, and a plan {often game night — playing Among Us or Jackbox Games}. No babysitters. No travel time. No staying out too late because even if we hang out until midnight, all that’s left to do to end the night is turn out the lights and head to bed.

Parenting young children, especially during a pandemic, can be an isolating and lonely time. I’ll always be grateful for the things we learned while we were all staying home, and for the chance to connect and solidify bonds with friends {new and old}, even if it’s “just” online.

Meet Lindsay, A Small Town Mom Living and Loving a Life of Chaos

Hi Mid-Michigan! I’m Lindsay, a small town mom and brand new contributor for Mid-Michigan Moms. I am married to my husband, Sean, and we have two boys and two fur babies. My life is full of chaos, but I am not sure I would have it any other way.

small town mom

I grew up in a very small town, a village, and I still live there today. It is one of those places that only has two stop lights, a few stores, and you pretty much know everyone.

Growing up I said I hated it but 30 years later here I am. It really is a great place to live and a terrific place to raise children.

I loved everything about high school, including athletics, friends, and Friday night football games. As a junior, my basketball team won the State Championship and that was a huge accomplishment. I am still very proud of that today! After high school, I went away to college and realized I did not like being away from “the village” so I came back home to my small town and continued school and work. After about 10 years, I finished college. Although I went to school as long as doctors do, I am not a doctor. My degree is in Criminal Justice, but I ended up becoming a social worker. In 2011 I was hired by the State of Michigan as a Children’s Protective Services worker. That is hands down one of the most difficult jobs ever! I loved it for a while but quickly got burned out. After five years, I transferred to Adult Protective Services, where I still am today. 

After being in the child welfare system I had the urge to become a licensed foster parent. There were so many kids in need. I discussed it with my husband because, apparently, that is the right thing to do. He said no, I said yes, and we got licensed.

The process of lengthy and frustrating, but well worth it. The day after our license was approved we welcomed two very sweet boys into our home. We fell in love with them and after eight months of having them, it was time for them to return to their biological mother….or so we thought. Fast forward a couple of years and we have adopted them. I can’t spill all the beans now or I won’t have anything to write about later!

small town mom

Outside of working and being a wife and mom, I absolutely love coaching basketball. I have been a coach for 19 years and my dream was always to become a varsity coach. I let that dream pass by a few times to stay in Morrice – my small town – and coach there. I finally decided to step out of my comfort zone and I applied and accepted the varsity job in Clio. I spent one season there before Perry, the next-door neighbor to Morrice, had a varsity opening. I jumped at that chance and I am so thankful as I love it there!

There is so much more to my chaotic life that I can’t wait to share with you! I am excited to be a part of the new contributors and to take you on my journey of being a mom. 

Let’s Start Lifting One Another Up, Instead of Tearing One Another Down

Ladies, can we stop tearing one another down? There is enough negativity in today’s society and saying hurtful things to or about others isn’t creating a healthy world for the next generation.

What are we teaching our daughters? What example are we setting when we engage in tearing others down to make ourselves feel better?

Think of it this way – if it was your sister, mom, friend, or self, being talked about in a negative way by a stranger, how would you respond? How would you feel? 

tearing one another downThis stranger is tearing down a person you care about. They are taking what they see on the surface, and passing judgment. And it may not even be that big of a deal. But today we live in a world where we take a small skirmish, a simple mistake, or a difference in parenting and create huge problems and judgments.

We have enough negativity in the world! Fueling the hate and negativity around us, only makes it worse. By tearing others down, you might start to make them hurt for things they may have thought were small.

For example:

  • When you see the mom in the store with her kids and one is having a meltdown don’t stare.
  • Don’t start tearing her down and making comments about how you would handle it, or how wouldn’t take all your kids to the store for that very reason.
  • Instead, smile at her and say you’re doing your best. Or, simply move on.
  • If your kid has an issue with another child, don’t chase the other kid down and seek out the parent. They will make contact with mom or dad soon, and then you can approach the parent if necessary.
  • Don’t make rude comments about how you think another parent’s “punishment” isn’t enough.
  • Don’t engage in tearing other parents down because they handled a situation differently than you would.

Think about what’s happening that you can’t see. For example:

  • Maybe the mom with three kids by herself is trying to give her kids a chance to run, play and explore after a week of being inside.
  • Maybe the mom in the store is in pain of some sort or being watched for pregnancy complications.
  • Perhaps the mom who didn’t give an appropriate “punishment” has a husband who is working long hours so he can be there to take care of his family when the baby comes, and she is simply overwhelmed.
  • Maybe the mom you were tearing down for letting her kids explore in the enclosed park without her following directly behind them is nursing her baby. Or maybe this is the only way she can let them play safely outside because the apartment they live in has no play area.
  • Perhaps the mom you judge for not providing a healthy lunch or snack simply grabbed what she had on hand because her baby has been sick all week and she is taking a much-needed break.

You never know where someone else has been, what they are going through or the leaps they had to take to get where they are. We are all in different stages of life, we are all in different stages on what we can provide. But we are all the same in the fact that we can ALL show kindness and be an example of lifting other women up.

Let’s stop tearing others down, and start lifting them up.

Have YOU been lifted up by another mom? Share it with us!

Beyond Van Gogh: An Immersive Experience

Beyond Exhibitions proudly presents “Beyond Van Gogh: An Immersive Experience” coming to TCF Center in beautiful downtown Detroit, produced in partnership with 313 Presents. 

Opening for a limited engagement Beyond Van Gogh: An Immersive Experience was created by French-Canadian Creative Director Mathieu St-Arnaud and his team at Montreal’s world-renowned Normal Studio.  This immersive experience features more than 300 of Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic artworks and takes the art lover into a three-dimensional world that exhilarates the senses.

After tremendous successes in Europe, cinematic Van Gogh exhibitions have crossed the ocean to great North American acclaim in recent years.  In a rich and unique multimedia experience using cutting-edge project technology developed by some of the world’s greatest AV designers, Beyond Van Gogh takes on the challenge of breathing new life into Van Gogh’s vast body of work.  

Using the artist’s own dreams, thoughts, and words to drive the experience as a narrative, guests move along projection-swathed walls
wrapped in light and color that swirls, dances, and refocuses into flowers, cafes, and landscapes.

While journeying through Beyond Van Gogh guests witness over 300 masterpieces, including instantly- recognizable classics such as “The Starry Night”, “Sunflowers”, and ‘Café Terrace at Night”, now freed from their frames.  Van Gogh’s art comes to life by appearing and disappearing, flowing across multiple surfaces, and heightening the senses with their immense detail.  Through his own words set to a symphonic score, guests come to a new appreciation of this tortured artist’s stunning work.  

It’s no surprise that millions of people all over the world credit Van Gogh with enhancing their relationship with art. Beyond Van Gogh will only deepen it further. As immersive art installations deeply resonate around the globe, “Beyond Van Gogh: An Immersive
Experience” will stay in Detroit for a limited engagement before moving across North America.

Art lovers near and far will have the opportunity to live this unique, unforgettable experience! Purchase your tickets HERE!

Beyond Van Gogh Show dates: June 25 – August 15, 2021.

5 Ways to Relax + Recharge, Summer Edition

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Relax and recharge – do you do this enough? Many of us love summer, with school being out, and having the kids home for fun all day, every day. But, often, we forget to take a few minutes to relax and recharge ourselves.

rechargeHere are five of my favorite ways to relax and recharge in the Summer Season! 

1.) Find a few good books to read. Pick them up from the library or order them from Amazon. Carry one with you everywhere you go and recharge by cracking it open when the kids are content playing, napping, or in bed. Make a goal to read and to let your kids see you reading you never know they may pick up a book too!

2.) Start a bonfire and make s’mores with the kids then relax and recharge by enjoying the evening with your significant other, chatting and watching the stars as the fire dies down. Enjoy the time to catch up and shake up the evening routine. Helpful tip: If you have really little kids you don’t want to leave in the house alone you can pitch a tent nearby for them to fall asleep in and move them into the house when you go in. 

3.) Visit the Water. This can be a lake, river, Great Lake where ever you like. Something about running water just recharges the mind and helps you relax. Last year we went to the lake and just walked with the kids along the shore. They found so many trinkets and treasures they had to show us. Another time my hubby and I took a picnic from one of our favorite restaurants and sat in the park by a river for an hour. We honestly just sat in the quiet for half the time listening to nature. 

4.) Get out and Explore. You probably think I am crazy here but it can be a relaxing experience to explore. I normally pick parks and trails I am familiar with or can get a map for when I do this. Getting away from the everyday surroundings of home helps separate you from the neverending to-do list. We’ll take the kids with us or I will go with my hubby and we just walk and explore. We use the map to get an idea of how big of a loop we want to do and then take out time enjoying the sights and whatever catches our interest. 

5.) Get Crafty! Okay, this is the one that can be messy but in a good way. Pick a craft or two that you enjoy and set a time to do them. It can be as simple as coloring in an adult coloring book while your kids color or as messy as building and painting birdhouses. Pick something creative. Digital Scrapbook, smash journal, paint on canvas, sidewalk chalk the list goes on. The act of creating something can be therapeutic for the mind. 

This is just a handful of things you can do to relax and recharge with kids around I would love to hear what some of your favorites are, too!

Meet Cassie, A Working Mom, Empowering Others Through Wellness

Hi Friends! I’m Cassie, you’re standard ‘Girl Mom’ and Occupational Therapist with an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for wellness.

I was born and raised in Jackson, Michigan where I currently live with my little family of three {four if you count our fur-baby}. My husband and I have been married for twelve years and our daughter just turned four. We have found that it’s true what they say; life goes fast once children enter the picture. It is hard to believe that we have a four-year-old already.  

Being a SAHM was not on my radar when we first began thinking about children. I always saw myself as a full-time working mom and never thought twice about that combination.

It wasn’t until we had the sixth miscarriage that we began to think differently about my current job as an Occupational Therapist. We didn’t know how we would become parents, but I knew once we did, I didn’t want to miss a single thing.

Thus, the decision was made that I would be leaving my current job and I would be entering the world of becoming a Stay At Home Mom.

While I loved the opportunity to be home with our daughter and have the flexibility to do all the ‘mom-things,’ I also realized that I can’t help but help others with their health and wellness goals. So I went from a SAHM to a WAHM and began my health and wellness business in the fall of 2017.

I have since expanded and now independently contract as an Occupational Therapist for a private company. I get to make my schedule and be my own boss –which I love and am grateful for. I truly feel like I get the best of both worlds as a mom and an entrepreneur. 

Being a mom is one of my greatest joys. It is also one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done – which most of you can probably relate with. However, I would not change a single thing. We love spending our time together crafting, going on ‘adventures’ to zoos, parks, and even random Target trips. Spending quality time together and making memories on our time, are the best parts about being able to have a flexible schedule. Being present in the adventures makes it easier for me to set boundaries for work time. While this is an ongoing learning process {somedays are easier said than done} making this a priority is crucial for balancing work/family life. 

When I’m not balancing work and family life, you can find me running, crafting, writing, spending time outside, traveling, and helping others with their health and wellness goals. I believe everybody deserves the opportunity to live life to the fullest. Helping others do just that is another great joy of mine. Whether it’s working on nutrition, educating others on the use of clean, plant-based products, being active, recovering from an injury, or learning something new {or re-learning something} I love working with individuals to help them get the most out of life and empowering others to go after their goals and dreams. 

I am so excited to be a part of the Mid-Michigan Moms family. My hope is that I will be able to connect with you – whether personally or through my writings – and inspire you to try something new or go after that long-awaited dream!

In + Around Mid-MIchigan