A year close to home: our Lansing-area favorites of 2021

With a newborn baby and the global pandemic still raging, our family spent most of 2021 close to home. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy ourselves in a number of safe, mostly outdoor ways.

Here are a few of our favorite activities and events from across the Lansing area this year — maybe our experiences will help you find inspiration for something new to try in 2022!

Sledding in Moores Park
We’re going in consecutive order, so we’ll start with the first activity of our year — sledding in our very own neighborhood park, Moores Park! On the first big snow day of 2021, we walked down our street and took Rosie sledding for the first time. She loved it, and only wiped out once.

While we love Moores Park in every season, this was an especially fun day for us. For more excellent sledding options, check out this list on the Lansing Family Fun website.

Supporting Local Businesses

In the months of December through February, I served as a #LiftUpLocal ambassador for Downtown Lansing, Inc. and Michigan Premiere Events. That meant I joined a team of neighbors to shop local and share with others about restaurants and businesses across Lansing. Not only did I have an excuse to eat amazing takeout (which my eight-months-pregnant self truly enjoyed), but I learned about so many new places in my own town!

Three of my favorite new places were:

Chasing flowers in Fowlerville

If you’ve met me, you know I love flowers — in home decor, in fashion, on my dining room table and especially outside in the Michigan springtime!

I usually stalk the Cooley Gardens for the magnolia blossoms, but this year we added the Munsell Farms sunflower fields to our flower hunt, and they did not disappoint. We’re talking thousands upon thousands of sunflowers, bright and beautiful and manicured into a maze for more walkable exploration. There were also thousands of bees — and if you’ve met me, you know these flowers MUST be good if I’m willing to brave the bees for it.

Shopping at the Farmers Market every week

The South Lansing Farmers Market runs every Thursday during the summer in a church parking lot on our street. This year I made it a priority to get down there every week and I’m so glad I did!

I bought fresh peaches, and learned how to make peach cobbler. I found beautiful cut flowers and warm crab rangoon and connected with neighbors and old friends, too. I already can’t wait to go back next summer.

Loving the local library

We took advantage of just a few of the Capital Area District Libraries programs this year, and I’m so glad we did! Rosie completed the summer reading program, Ben listened to dozens of audiobooks, and I met new friends (as did the kids) at weekly Storytime events.

Beyond book-related events, our library card got us free passes to the Potter Park Zoo and we even some very friendly llamas decked out for the holidays at a Christmas library event. Seriously, check out your local library — and maybe I’ll see you there!

Exploring new places on playdates

We got creative with safe, fun outings for the kids, and found some new favorite places to visit, including:

  • MSU Museum
    • Dinosaur bones, animal exhibits, and walking distance to the MSU Dairy Store.
  • Horrocks Beer Garden
    • Warm greenhouses, beautiful plants and flowers, and gelato at 10am — what more could you ask for?
    • This is also our new favorite date spot, with live music, pizza and drinks in the evenings…and maybe more gelato, too.

Spending all of fall at the cider mill

No Michigan autumn is complete without a trip to your favorite cider mill, and this year we started early on the weekend of Labor Day. We visited our favorite spots five times this year — from picking apples to fall colors and pumpkins, eating donuts all along the way.

Our favorites are Phillips Orchards and Cider Mill for apple picking and a more rustic orchard experience, and Uncle John’s Cider Mill for pumpkins, hayrides, and more organized children’s activities.

A year close to home

We made it to December, and closed out the year with a visit to the Potter Park Zoo Wonderland of Lights. This was our second time attending this local holiday event, and we have plans to return every year.

Who knows what 2022 will look like? Hopefully we will be able to see more friends from far away, and safely return to normal activities soon. But in the meantime, it’s good to know we have so many options right here in and around our city.

Did I miss something great in Lansing? Please share! I’d love to know what you have found in your hometown, wherever you are! Let’s all learn to love our hometowns more this coming year.

The amazing invisible mom

Becoming a mom has given me a superpower I didn’t expect, or even want — the power of invisibility. I know this sounds dramatic, but hear me out.

A few weeks ago our family visited a local apple orchard and cider mill, as Michiganders do. My husband was holding the baby, and I was holding a gallon of cider and the hand of our wiggly toddler. We approached the cashier and the woman working immediately exclaimed, “Oh, I just love seeing dads hold their babies!”

She continued, “You guys are part of a new generation, where dads just get in there and get involved with the kids. That didn’t happen when I was raising mine.” We smiled and thanked her, and left with our cider and donuts and kids.

Shortly after this encounter, we were staying at a hotel for a family reunion when our daughter got sick all over the lobby floor. My husband took her back up to the room to change clothes and I stood there, the baby on my hip, trying to get the attention of the front desk. I told them I was so sorry, we’d had an accident and there was a mess. The woman working threw two towels at me across the desk and said, “just throw these away when you’re done.” I then attempted to clean up the vomit from the hotel lobby floor, while holding a tiny, crying baby who was too little to be put down.

I share these two stories because they happened within a few weeks of each other, and because they reveal something I’m finding to be true in my experience of motherhood: moms are invisible.

When you have young children, especially a very small baby, you are never the first thing someone sees. In some ways that completely makes sense — babies are adorable! They have chubby cheeks and big eyes and silly teeth and their clothes are like adult clothes, but tiny. What’s not to love?

But in other ways, this is infuriating. People honk and stare when you take too long to get in the car and out of the parking spot they want (but have they tried buckling any car seats recently?). I have never once been praised for holding my baby, even when I’m doing that while simultaneously keeping the stroller from rolling downhill, putting on the toddler’s mask and finding my quarter for the Aldi cart.

This invisibility can also contribute to mental health issues for moms. One recent study found that 1 in 7 women may experience postpartum depression in the year after giving birth. Without people checking in on them, new moms’ symptoms of postpartum anxiety or depression may go unnoticed.

I love that my husband is an engaged, wonderful dad who is always happy to hold his babies. I don’t think it’s wrong for a mom to help clean up her kids’ messes. But I think we can all do better, myself included, at recognizing the moms around us.

See the mom juggling multiple kids, a purse, an iced coffee and a shopping cart, and tell her “you’re rocking it!” as you walk down the store aisle. Offer to take a picture for the mom capturing a sweet moment of her kids at the park — “do you want to get in the picture, Mama?” you could ask. Say hello to the mom, too, anytime you wave or make funny faces at a baby in public.

You don’t have to have a whole conversation, and you don’t have to get on your knees and wipe up puke with her (although thank goodness a kind stranger did eventually do that for me). Just see her, and remind her she isn’t invisible. She’ll be super glad you did.