The wild one

And just like that, we’re half way through summer.

A rejuvenating few days in the city: who would have thought I'd take away deep rest? But I did, and clarity, too.

We’ve been back to Windmill Island a number of times, as recent as just yesterday. It is my favorite place in Holland and right now, this week, is the best of the flowers in bloom. It’s wild, in the best way.

Some home improvement projects are underway (as I type our front door is being replaced, hallelujah!) and we are excited to work on the curb appeal of our little secret house. It’s been 5 years and we still get comments like “I had no idea your house looked like this” once people step in. Our street-side appearance is misleading, but in a good way. A simple, don’t think too much about it, way. She looks untouched from the front and when you step inside, she’s all the old wisdom with none of the baggage.

This room is discovering purpose. #inprogress

A little Sunday prep for the week ahead.

My kids have had a blast at sleep away camps and we took an eventful family trip out East over the 4th of July holiday. I had a job in Chicago in June that we stole away, just Aaron and I, to work and explore together.

Home is where ever she is. 💜

"Danger: KEEP OFF ROCKS" 👌 #challengeaccepted #lakeontario #hamlinbeach

A small bit or respite, a little bit of quiet.

We’ve had plenty of lazy days at a friends pool, the beach, day trip adventures and family visiting from out of town.


I love this summer.

That summer time vibe ☀️⛱

Epic adventures with Oliver today.

Fogging for mosquitos, saving kittens, chasing cousins, karaoke in the rain, passing out extra dessert to neighbors, bonfires, and alllllllllll the laughter. 💙

And, as always, we’ve been busy in the kitchen with little delights.

Just making mini hand pies today. Delicious endeavors.

Michigan blueberries 💙

There’s a feeling to this summer: Settled. We are growing and dreaming and living and we’re safe. We are so excited for what’s next.

Dreams and apple trees.

I’ll leave you with something I posted on Facebook yesterday, it just rings true, and I want you to have it, too.

“I’ve had a moment of simple reminders today, where the fire deep inside is ablaze with unadulterated passion for living the life before me. Not the one prescribed to me by outside sources, or the one presented to me, on a platter, as if this next choice will cement the rest of all the choices. But the one I can’t stop dreaming about. The wild one. The exploration one. The one where I’m not afraid of making mistakes or seeing the world all over again. The one where I decide to try again. And again. And again.

The one where I stop making excuses for why I’m not living it yet and start saying yes instead of “later.” I AM ON FIRE.

We all are.

Can you see my smoke signals? They’re everywhere. This way! Over here!

Let go, Let’s go.”

Backyard Tourist: Windmill Island, Holland, Mi

Such a fun morning being tourists in our backyard. Windmill Island is free for residents of the @cityofholland and it's a hidden gem. Beautiful gardens, parks, tours of the mill, horses! We will be back again and again.

It’s the first Monday of Summer Vacation and I’ve decided to take a relaxed approach to how we fill our days. The months are going to fly, this I already know, with sleep-away camps and sports camps and a few camping trips already planned, we’re going to arrive at the beginning of the next school year as if we left for a walk across the State and only ended up rounding our city block.

The kids wanted to roller blade and I wanted caffeine so we geared up and headed downtown to JP’s Coffee for my must-have and then meandered down to the Window on the Waterfront for theirs.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

It’s gorgeous with plenty of wildlife to watch and the end of the Spring flowers to see. We saw a family of swans, muskrats eating and swimming, and lots of birds and bugs.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

As we were leaving I remembered Windmill Island is close to the park and, if I was right, it’s free for residents of the City of Holland. I wanted to check it out.

Backyard Tourists

TRUE! Free all day long for us, every day they’re open (save for the week of Tulip Time). I was super excited.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

It was fabulous.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

There’s so much to see and do, and with this being free to Residents, it’s like our own personal oasis. The carousel ride is free, the park is updated and multi-aged friendly. There are picnic tables literally every where. Water you can kayak in (bring your own), all kinds of flowers to meander through, it’s stunning. There’s even yard games for the kids to play and music is often wafting in the background. A small cafe and gift shop and tons of opportunities to learn more about the Netherlands. There’s horses on the island you can watch or bing an apple to treat. They’re nice, and they’re used to people. You can bike around the island as well (bring your own, or bike TO the island from your home).

Backyard Tourists

We enjoyed a lively and informative tour of the working Mill and even met the Miller in house.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

You can buy the flour milled right here in Holland on Windmill Island, too. We tried but they were sold out today.

Did you know that they used to use the blades of the windmill as a local billboard to communicate? And during the wars they had signals to the town about where the troops were. Fascinating. The entire mechanism of the mill is crazy complicated and our Miller is the only female certified Miller by whatever association based in the Netherlands – it’s very prestigious. And she’s going for her Masters. Or something. On the tour we took there were folks from Germany! They’re touring the great lakes and made a stop in Holland to see the Windmill.

People, if Germans travel to see this gem and it’s in our backyard for free … I’m telling you. Geek out and get out. I can’t wait to go back.

It was a great (and mostly free) day. (I spent $2 on my cup of coffee. 😉 )

Backyard Tourists

Kids summer rec. and a story

Lunch break planning session. Each kid has an oversized calendar - all info on camps, VBS weeks, summer programs, and rec guide in one place. I master plan the budget and available weeks and sign up in one afternoon. Hopefully. That's the idea anyway.

I’m the youngest of 4 kids and before my parents divorced we lived in Texas. I was born in Africa and all of this has a point, hold on, because my parents were missionaries there and while doing so my father was a pilot – he flew supplies (medical mostly I think) to remote areas. He took sick people to the hospitals. I was hours old the first time I was on a plane, legend has it. This profession carried through and my father is still a pilot … so growing up my mom had all 4 of us kids to entertain and keep busy on a very different schedule than any of my friends.

I think thats where I get this from. My mom was (still is) the queen of recreation organization. If there was something free happening in our small towns and cities – we were there. City pools, block parties, VBS camps, parades, and celebrations. We frequented our Libraries, always stopped at the Big Read Bus, and I was a champion Salamander hunter. (That last one is just for fun.)

When my kids were very little so much of this free stuff was for us … something to do, something new for the little kids to see. Although for a while it was enjoyable because we were all together; now these activities are fun because they’re excited about them. Their interests are being catered to, their senses. Riding bikes isn’t exercise … it’s an adventure.

So when my kids started getting to the age of appreciation or eligibility – I started making lists of all the fun things to come:

Summer Jar 2010
Spring Break Staycation
I Live in Holland, Mi (And freaking love it.)
Labor Day weekend circa 2007
Tulip Time 2013! (And every year after … I love this festival)
A collection of resources and links

This year, similar to years past, I’m working this summer. I’ve done a few different things with my kids like nannies/babysitters, daycare centers, summer week day camps … and I’m going to do the same again this year. I’ve been compiling all the information and we talked over a budget for both kids for the entire summer and then one afternoon I gather everything up, take two oversized desk calendars (one for each kid) and pencil in every possibility.

Then I master plan, fill in holes, rearrange classes or workshops as needed, and register.

So. Here’s my list this year – we aren’t doing everything but this is what I found available for the summer of 2014.

Vacation Bible Schools (VBS)

Beechwood Church June 16-20, 9am-12pm
Central Park Church June 16-20, 9:30am-12pm
Rose Park Church June 23-27, 6pm-8:15pm
Park Church of Holland June 23-25, evenings, with picnic on 26th.
Providence Church July 14-18, 6:30pm-8pm
Christ Memorial June 16-19, 9am-11:30am (had to call to get info)
Calvary CRC July 21-25, 9am-11:45am
Community Reformed in Zeeland June 16-19, 6:15pm-8:30pm
Harderwyk Church June 23-26, 9:30am-12pm Thanks, Julie, for the info!

Holland Local Recreation Programs

Degraaf Nature Center Various classes for various ages. Day trips, 3 day (mornings or afternoons) classes, etc.
City of Holland Playground Program
City of Holland Junior Adventure Club
Hersheys Track and Field Age 9-14, June 11.
Holland Rec (Here’s the bulletin online)
Herrick Library various events, have to search for them. Fridays they have a free lego club for an hour. Just show up and build! (This link might help)
Holland Farmers Market events for kids and chef series.
Zeeland community activities

Zeeland picnic, local links

Macatawa Bank’s Movies in the Park
Macatawa Bank’s events
Kids Summer Movies Goodrich Theaters
Holland Events Music in the parks, at restaurants, Summer film series…
Huntington Bank Summer Concert Series


Critter Barn
Frederick Meijer Gardens Classes and camps
Downtown Market GR summer classes and camps
SpringHill Day camp Zeeland, Mi
Kids Rock Summer Camp Zeeland, Mi
Winding Creek Dive Camp Sleep-away camp in Hastings, Mi
Camp Roger Sleep-away camp in Rockford, Mi
Camp Geneva Sleep-away or day camp in Holland, Mi

Information overload much? Yes. If you’re sticking to free things only your best resource is going to be your cities event calendar, the libraries and the local attractions (free days for residents, for instance.) or for the banks in your area who host or sponsor events.

Don’t overlook the touristy things in your town that you never really check out because you live there. Many of them have freebies for residents or events and classes you’ve always wondered about and they’re discounted because you live there. Museums are a good check-in point to remember. In Holland we have Windmill Island and Dutch Village. Great little day trips. Nurseries (Countryside Greenhouse, as an example) have great playscapes for the kids and often a hot dog cart out front. You can go for an afternoon just to play, or scavenger hunt for certain plants and plan to eat lunch.

I’m hoping we make it to a few of the events in GR this year, movies on Reeds lake? Yes. We have full calendars, I’m so excited for Summer!

I’m sure I missed many things – so if you have something (even other areas) that you want added to the list, leave them in the comments and I’ll keep building this as a resource.

Shaking loose

The best place to start is at the beginning. But I’m not really sure where that is. Or of what beginning I really need to traverse back to in order to tell this story.

Before I had a blog (!!!), before I was married or a mother … I worked with my dad as a Real Estate agent. I started working as his assistant when I was 17 and tried to enroll in the class to get my own license as soon as possible. At 18 I was a licensed agent and fell in-love with homes.

Working with my dad was and is one of the gifts I carry with me every day. He sold Aaron and I our first home. (Fun fact: Terry Brinks was the listing agent. His office was across the hall from my dad’s … )

perry house

We lived there as I continued to work as an agent, helping first time home buyers find their home, helping others sell their first home and move on to the next stage in life. Then my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

I couldn’t picture myself doing this without him, so I stopped. In the mean time I got married … soon after got pregnant and all of a sudden our first little house was caving in on us. Just under 2 years after moving in – we moved out.

One of the last deals my dad did was our second home:

For Sale

He died weeks later, the walkthrough of this home was the last he did.

We closed on the sale of this home the day we also had the visitation for his funeral. Because my dad was so well known and loved we had two visitations with a break in the middle: pregnant with Jessica in the throes of grief, I drove to this house between visitations and walked it’s halls.

Lost and lonely.

I grew up in this house, this house changed me. I brought both of my babies home to this house, my husband grew a business in this house. We changed, painted, carpeted, tiled and dreamt in this house. We hosted constant bonfires, play dates, friends and family members. We made memories in this house: we made life.

And then we sold this house.


Terry Brinks. The man I now work with – sits in the very same office my dad sat in 10 years ago. Terry was one of my dad’s best friends, a confidant. He did life with Terry. I grew up with Terry’s kids.

When we decided it was time to sell our second house we knew we had a mountain to climb, we were upside down in the house. Terry listened to us; what was important to us and what our goals were. He helped us understand how to get there – which was anything but a simple 2+2 or A to B.

In an effort to work our way out of the debt we would accumulate by selling our house – Terry worked a few deals with us.

We built a home but he sold it before we moved in. So we rented for a few years, and while renting we tried to buy two other homes with Terry … The Tin Post was the first (at a whopping $29,000) but we were denied a loan because the start up we were currently nursing along.

So we waited a few months, went with a different bank and tried to buy another house which we had full confidence in the ability to move in to. At $56,000 this house was still a steal. And on the day of our closing the bank called and denied us, again.

We were heart broken but Terry was confident that we would be able to buy another house. We had to wait for our current year taxes to file so the start up that closed would no longer reflect our income. I stopped looking entirely.

Then 2012 rolled around, our taxes filed and I looked, just to peek, to see if I could maybe possibly start to hope. And a house on east was sitting there. Great neighborhood. In our price range ($86,000). Good bones, livable until we could afford to remodel …

I called Terry and asked to see it. Aaron was on his way out of town so I went alone, just me and Oliver after dropping Jessica off at school … we looked around and I asked a few questions … called Aaron and then made an offer (less than asking price).

first showing

(This is what would end up being Jessica’s bedroom)

A few weeks later we actually signed papers and got keys. We had kept this house a secret because it was such a miscarriage of hope to keep telling people we were moving when we never did …

we have a home

Until April 27, 2012

this is my house

That’s how we got here.

Late last year I emailed Terry again about a few other homes, I’m interested in starting to purchase property to build a few other dreams. I kept running into Terry, we grabbed drinks, I was working a few things out in my personal life with where to go next, what to do with my time.

And then mid-remodel Terry stopped over to see the progress on our home. He started telling me how he might be looking for someone to help him do his next thing.

Little cubby will be wine storage, thinking this is going to be an accent wall. Primed

He wondered if maybe I was a possible part of that next thing?

Idea mapping and rapping. Sorta. #itsagoodday

Yes. Yes I am.

I work with Terry out of Five Star Real Estate in Holland. Walking through those doors, 12 years later, to come to work, again, was nothing short of divine in so many ways. I was scared to be back here, literally in the same office, possibly in the exact same spot … and I was ecstatic to be back to my first love.

I get to combine what I’m talented at with what I love doing. I have no idea how this qualifies as a job, I get to do what I love.

Thanks for being patient with me here, I can’t wait to show you what we’re doing.

In the mean time, you can follow along on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I’m not an agent, I just work for one 😉 So if you need to sell your house or want to buy one: you can call Terry (616-355-3777) or email me and we can build your dream, too.

After my dad died I listened for years as friends and family members recounted last words from him, last wishes. Memories or how they felt he had “prearranged” some kind of sign for them … I listened and listened, waiting to hear mine. I listened in silence as the memory faded for so many people, I watched and heard how “step dad” disqualified him from their memory as the man who raised me. I mourned a great loss, all alone … but it turns out he was watching out for me after all.

He didn’t forget me.

And look at me, doing a brand new thing. I can do this, I already am.


Tulip Time 2013

It’s TULIP TIME! I live in Holland, Michigan and I LOVE Tulip Time.

Tulip Time Family Guide_words.jpg.jpg

I’ve been an alumni Dutch Dancer for 7? 8? years, maybe more. My shoes have my initials JMS on them, before I was ever promised S as my last name 😉 (Don’t tell Aaron. Ok, do.) So more than 10 years, actually. Either way, I’ve had a few years off with having babies or partners who had babies but I love everything about Tulip Time.

Here’s my go-to tips for how to make it fun for the whole family (and not spend your entire month’s budget on vendor food and carnival rides.)

Tulip Time is all about the Tulips (and festivals, parades, food and fun.) but mostly – per it’s namesake, it’s about Tulips. You should see some.

Windmill Island is a great place to walk around for photos and to get a good feeling for what life used to be like. Rumor has it they have a new park for kids too, which, awesome. It will cost admission during Tulip Time, more info here.

You can always tip toe through the Tulips at Window on the Waterfront. This is our favorite place. Every year we take photos of the beautiful tulips and the kids.

a morning walk

Walking around Centennial Park for Tulips or up and down any street close to the downtown district will yield beautiful photo’s as well.

You can’t miss the food vendors all around during Tulip Time, but your wallet might be wise to. I decided to try and make our favorites at home so we could still enjoy Tulip Time without feeling taken advantage of by our favorite little city. As much as I love Tulip Time and Holland, $6 for a lemonade kind of makes me want to stab things. Tourism!

caramel apples.jpg

My absolute favorite: Caramel Apples.


Our kids’ favorite: Corn Dogs!

Walking Tacos.jpg

Parade food: Walking Taco’s.

Elephant Ears.jpg

Everyone’s favorite: Elephant Ears!!

If you’re venturing into Holland for your very first Tulip Time (even though you’ve lived in West Michigan your entire life!) don’t forget to check out these family friendly places:

Mom’s in Tow is doing their annual Family Rest Area during Tulip Time with activities, specials, freebies and a safe place for you to change/nurse or let your kids be free from a crowd again this year. Usually on 8th St in Pocket Park (next to Cold Stone).

Tip Toes store has a great little tree house that kids are allowed to climb and play in. Shop around, let your little’s use some of the creative energy before being strapped in a stroller.

The Peanut Store is a must. Instead of cotton candy, give your kids $1 or two and let them purchase a treat from Holland’s candy store. (FAVORITE)

I could keep going, this literally is one of my favorite times to live in Michigan. Tulip Time and the summer season that follows. Full of fun!

Ask question in the comments and I’ll be sure to give you my inside guide/tips.

Happy tip-toeing!