Get After That Light!

Is it not glorious out right now?!

I don’t think I’ve ever loved the changing leaves as much as I do this year. Friday, after a long week of school for all of us, it was EIGHTY degrees, sunny, and gorgeous. So I took the boys to Lake Harriet to get in some playground and scootering time. Charlie really impressed me with his climbing derring-do.

The bandshell turned out to be a fantastic place to scooter.
Beautiful, smooth, and uninterrupted by others.

The view also provided entertainment whilst catching one’s breath.

We did some trail time, too. Henry, as per usual, made it as difficult as possible by attempting to ride on the dirt.

It was also a little unclear as to whether we ought to be on the walking path or the bike path. We tried some of each, and neither felt quite right, but we’ll figure it out.

In our bedtime reading book last week, the characters went to a sushi restaurant in NYC. Charlie couldn’t stop gushing about how much that made him want sushi, so…we got some this week. YUM!!!!

Saturday night, Charlie’s friend celebrated his birthday by inviting a few friends over to watch the Star Wars: A New Hope in their backyard. It was SO fun to watch him experience it for the first time. He was also psyched to get to stay out until 10:30pm. Joe was asleep by the time we got home!

Sunday afternoon was beautiful weather again, so we hit a few more parks, this time in North and NE Minneapolis. Can you find the Novaks in this picture?

Always nice to be next to the Mississippi River

We found a huuuuge tree and a huuuuuge playground. So fun times were had by all.

“Can you sign your name?”

On the way back to the car, there was a “skills course,” as Joe put it, which was perfect since Henry’d been pretending he was a ninja in training.

My church has been sending out daily emails with inspiration and thoughts since COVID-quarantine started back in March. I really liked something they included this week, so I made my own version of it and put it up in my classroom.

One of the ways I’ve been working on doing that is by identifying things in my life that could stop being drains on my energy if I just actually focus and take care of them. As a stay-at-home parent for 9+ years, I got very used to multi-tasking. It’s a tactic that helps a lot of different things get done. It’s also a tactic that means that many of those tasks are done in a piece-meal, incomplete way while the unfinished parts of those task weight ever so slightly on my energy as they hang on the back-burner of my brain. Over time, that weight adds up and I end up in tears for reasons I can’t name.

So I’m going to try to be better at focusing and finishing tasks more completely and thoughtfully.

A year ago, my grad-school cohort was coming over for a potluck. I realized I was embarrassed at the stained fabric on our dining room chairs. So, at the last minute, I did a quick fix. I cut up old, ripped linen bedsheets and stapled them on kind of willy-nilly. It meant I learned about how to reupholster the chairs, and it was a good trial run so I knew how to do it better next time. But it was also a band-aid fix. Bedsheets are not upholstery fabric. For this entire year, every time I have seen them or sat on them (which is obviously a lot), I have felt that back-burner weight. Finally, I decided to address it. Yesterday morning, Joe and I talked fabric and color preferences, and I headed to the fabric store to invest in letting that weight go!

It took a trip to the store and only maybe an hour of labor (which I love doing anyway).
I am beyond thrilled! And now my shoulders (and brain) feel lighter. SO worth it.

Go on!

Every day is a big experiment.

We’re all just putting different ingredients together, trying different approaches, seeing what happens, and then adjusting based on the results. That’s true all across the board, but it’s especially noticeable as I begin this teaching thing. I go in with what I know and hope will happen, give it a try, shift to accommodate how things are going on the fly, and then reflect afterward so that next time goes smoother. With A & B cohorts and teaching multiple sections of the same class, I end up getting to try delivering some of my lessons six times in person throughout the week. By Thursday, it all goes so smooth!

Then on Mondays, the cycle begins, but at that point I’m excited for new material, so I’m pumped for the new challenge. So far, I have to say, I’m loving this job! I get to organize art supplies, make sketchbooks and cut cardboard, research artists and art styles. It’s great.

Speaking of great…OMG! Henry pulling his little cousin in a wagon. He pulled him all by himself all around Luke’s yard. It was beautiful.

So, who remembers how much I love Halloween? Everyone? Okay, good.

IT’S FINALLY OCTOBER!

Mom’s annual Halloween box o’ goodies arrived last week, and Charlie dove into his new books before even bothering to sit down.

This weekend, we wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather and see some fall foliage, so Joe brought us to Kinnickinnic State Park in Wisconsin. ‘Twas delightful!

Part of the reason we were so excited to get outdoors was because last week was real yuck-yuck in terms of weather. Cold and dark and we all had minor panic attacks thinking of winter on the horizon.

It also meant we weren’t getting out for walks and things, so we had to get a little creative with our exercise, like Henry on the elliptical here…

Lucky for the boys, my parents decided to send up early birthday presents of scooters!!!!! They spent that whole evening zooming around our living room on them while we FaceTimed with Mom and Dad. They are loving them.

Waiting for Slow-Poke Mom on our way back from the co-op!

This week at Family Dinner, Henry’d had a taste for pulling Luke in a wagon, so he wanted to give it a try again. This wagon was definitely easier for him to pull, and Luke was still a happy camper!

He also got new shoes this week, so he tested them out by leaping over some of Grandma’s flowers. Luckily, the boy can jump!

Beautiful sunset over the highway. I’m spending a lot more time in the car now that I commute to New Brighton. Luckily, a wise friend pointed me toward the podcase ‘Witch, Please!’ which is a delightful and analytical deep dive into the Harry Potter franchise. It makes my time on this road so much more pleasant.

Being There

What we have been missing the most over these last several strange months has been…

CAKE!!!!

Oh wait. No, we’ve been doing plenty of baking. Check out that sweet layer cake I made! Sometimes I impress myself.

What we’ve really been missing is that feeling of really getting to be with people–just enjoying human company. After my parents dealt with COVID in their own home, we actually got the wonderful treat of getting to enjoy a visit from them with no fear, since they were past their contagion quarantine while full of those protective antibodies.

How wonderful to play games with Grandma right up close!

Henry and Grandpa Steve both find themselves in funny positions sometimes

A nice lakeside chat with Grandma at Lake Nokomis

and a walking one with Grandpa. Figuring out Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Henry would have let Grandma spin him all day!

Joe tends to ignore posted rules

Such a wonderful time, especially since I had recently started teaching from home and could use some fresh ears to dump my thoughts and feelings into!

The next week, we all got our flu vaccinations. They’ve started doing a clinic at their middle school, so now that it’s not attached to the doctor’s office (and they usually have the flu mist instead of the shot) it tends to go much smoother. Here they are enjoying a post-mist play on our walk back home afterward.

School starting has also helped reconnect the boys with their peers. For so long we didn’t do any play dates, but now that we know more about how COVID is transmitted, it’s less scary to do backyard hangs. The kids are honestly better at social-distancing/masking-up than most adults I see! It’s been so good for everyone’s mental health to get these times of connection in.

I’m now teaching in-person four days a week, while maintaining a full distance-learning classroom everyday. Some of the introductory information a new teacher might get at a school has gotten left behind with the concerns of the pandemic, so the second week left me feeling like I had too much software and systems to figure out to ever make it work! I got sad and angry and indignant and overwhelmed and…yeah.

Luckily, I live with a wise man who told me:

Just kidding. Joe’s the most supportive partner ever. He lets me do all the venting and crying I need, but he’ll also point out when it would help to adjust my perspective AND he encourages me to reach out for help, advice and to be seen/heard.

I needed all of those things, and with the combination of all of them, my third week of teaching (which was also my first week of in-person teaching ever!) has been a success! I’m feeling better, getting the help I need, and every day learning more about how to do this job better.

For my 3D Art class, I had each period take a walk around the school to collect art materials. One class made a ‘nest’ and then plunked a huge rock on top of it, declaring it “The Bird!” This one is my favorite. It’s hard to see, but it was Day One in class, and the looks of the art is not really the point. Their inspiration was ‘how it feels to be back in school.’ Many of them were most struck by how strange the building feels with only a third of the students there at a time. They’re also 8th graders, so they’ve had a lot of prior experience in this building. They decided the best way to represent their collective feeling was to create a house on an island with a bridge. The house should feel nostalgic, empty and old. That’s so real!

So yeah, we’re all working our way through. In the meantime, bigger growth just happens while you’re busy with all the little moments. Like our zinnias

and our tree

and HOLY COW our sunflowers! I have tried to grow sunflowers every year for 6 years, but it never happens. I must have done something right this year.

They’re way bigger than me!

“Sooooooo big!”

New Things

Last weekend, a friend of ours had about the only kind of wedding that can be pulled off these days, a camping wedding!

Look! I helped put together a tent!

It was only about a half hour north of the Cities, so nice and close, but you still felt like you were out away from it all.

They had cut down the wedding to about a quarter of their original guest list, which was, I’m sure, disappointing for them. But I thought it was great. By the end of the weekend, I’d gotten to know a good chunk of the people there, several of whom were Des Moinesians I’d never met before. It was really cool.

The very musical couple even serenaded us by campfire

Such a beautiful time. Nothing beats an entire weekend outdoors. I felt so refreshed and ready to take on life.

And then, as always, coming home felt so good. Although, we may have taken a hike along the way…

We were looking for somewhere to eat our lunch, so we stopped by a favorite bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. That led to Henry wanting to follow the trails, so we did. It was a real treat to come upon this little area. It’s the place our friends used to come for bonfires during college!

The hill behind it is sandstone, which is really fun. In college, there was a throne carved into it, but now it looks completely different. The boys liked this hidey hole.

As is oh, so fitting, Joe found a tree to be in

And I led us to the beach

Charlie had fun uncovering rocks in the sand

and I had fun realizing the sand beneath the top layer was completely black!

So then I made some art.

Paddle wheel boat went by!

After all of that, it was time to go home. It was time to prepare for the big day:

Everyone’s first day of school! We had our devices charged, Joe reminded us to try logging in to things the night before, and we figured out the spots we’d work in.

I was ready to INSPIRE!!!!!!

And then…well…you know how the first day of any class is pretty boring? You don’t really do much except go through expectations and names and whatnot? Turns out that’s even more boring on the teacher end. Middle school students also prefer to be off-camera, it seems, so I didn’t really even get to see my students much. I felt disconnected and disappointed.

That combined with a first- and fourth-grade classroom operating under that same roof made the day pretty hectic. I’m not going to lie. Part of me just wished we could all just skip school for the foreseeable future. I’d rather be hiking.

I brought in some of our beautiful hydrangeas, watched a show with Joe, and got a good night’s sleep.

It all worked!

I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to try again. Day two of teaching middle school was great, and while we still didn’t get all the kinks worked out in Novak Elementary, the boys both had great days of school as well.

We’re doing it!

Transition Time

We’re learning about balance in our home right now

Things are going to look and feel a lot different this fall, and that’s scary and sad. 
But that doesn’t mean fall has to be scary and sad! 

There’s so much to look forward to. Sunday school, for example, will be online this year. That may be strange, but it will also give me, as a teacher, and my kids the chance to engage in it in a new way. Our youth pastor arranged a social distance gathering so teachers and students could meet each other. It was a super small turnout, as expected, but it was also a really joyful time. 

It was so fun, you can see Henry feeling pretty jealous that the first-graders didn’t get to do it (for safety concerns).

He pulled a little Zacchaeus  move

 

Closer….

Finally, they noticed! He was invited to join the water balloon catapulting

…and sploosh!

I’ve been feeling all kinds of feelings about starting school, both for the boys and myself. I’ll find myself getting upset about something specific, but then when I start talking it through, my voice catches when I mention Charlie and Henry. Sure, the details of a new job are stressful, but when it comes down to it, my real feelings have to do with the boys. I’ve been a stay-at-home parent for 9 years. That has been my full-time priority. So even though that is no longer my ‘job title,’ I still absolutely feel like I need to fulfill every one of the obligations I’ve always had on my plate as a stay-at-home parent. Fitting a full-time job in on top of that is…really something. The boys will be doing school at home, and I’ll be teaching both in my classroom and from home.

But it’s also exciting. I have loved getting to set up my classroom. I find myself having fun planning curriculum. I’ve been doing these meet-your-teacher Zoom calls, and I dread and hate them…until a new family hops on and starts talking! Then my energy spikes and I get this full-body joy feeling.

This fall is going to be weird and hard and great. 

Here’s some of the bulletin board work I’ve been working on! Whiteboard drawings compliments of Charlie and Henry

My own graphic adaptation of a favorite scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Backdrop artwork compliments of…Charlie as a wee young’un. He used to love watching watercolors drip down the easel paper. It reminded him of the progress bars that show up when you’re waiting for a computer page to load. He called these drips, “Loady things”

This one might be my fave

And speaking of art reflecting time, values and place…here’s some of our sand art

Yesterday after I accomplished everything I needed to for the day at school (we’re in teacher workshop/setup/planning week), the boys and I hit Lake Harriet. 

We value sunshine, water, digging in  the dirt, and living up the late summer days in the city.

And then, in the morning, I got ready for some more family meetings.

Here I am, waiting for families to join my Zoom call, enjoying my coffee in a mug I got as a gift from the Governor of the Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan…waaaay back when I was a middle schooler myself. 

While I wait, I made some magnets for my file cabinet to give kids inspiration points when they’re not sure what to make.

So yeah. Balance. It’s going to be new and different. But, as the theme song to a TV show I love says, “you take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and there you have the facts of life.”

Up North. The final part

Final days of our trip! What a beautiful journey it was.

We left Eagle River and drove straight through to Duluth, Minnesota. Well, we stopped for pasties along the way, but otherwise, we hit our audiobook (Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer) and a Talking Heads albums hard.

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Of course, the whole ride, Charlie was simultaneously reading a second book, and Henry was drawing.

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Duluth has had to redo its riverfront area because of rising water and heavier storms. The parts that are finished are so lovely! It’s also charmingly right along railroad tracks, which made the boys positively giddy.

Here’s Joe’s beautiful view from above. He was holding our patio seat up at the Fitger’s Brewery building while our lunch was made.

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Lunch! This captures what Henry called his “first time using a goblet.”

Happy boy by the sea

None of us had ever toured the Glensheen Mansion grounds before, so we corrected that.

There’s me on my favorite feature of the house…its patio.

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I mean, who wouldn’t want a brick patio with this view?

Just a short hop down to the water. Glorious.

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Stone arch bridge! This one’s less filled with pedestrians and bikers than the one in Minneapolis.

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Always fun touring houses from different time periods. Our family always seems to find the bathrooms especially interesting!

Me, I think the laundry setups are fascinating. Makes me feel extremely lucky.

The next morning, I wanted to hop in the hot tub in the hotel while the boys explored the docks. When I called to meet up with them, they’d popped over the lift bridge. Just as I arrived on foot at the bridge, this big ol’ ship came by, so I watched the whole process up close and personal.

We didn’t make it to Maine this summer, but we still got to see multiple lighthouses!

Here’s what a lot of the riverfront looked like while it’s being rebuilt. Not as picturesque, but still pretty interesting to these dudes.

And here’s Henry loving up some more big marine artifacts. It’s a good life.

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And with that, we grabbed some pastries and bopped on back to Minneapolis. It was a lovely trip, but that first step into the house again always makes me heave a big sigh of relief.

It’s always hard to readjust to regular life after being on break, of course, but being back in the Cities where we can have backyard joy with friends definitely helps ease the sadness.

Plus, after a week without toys, the boys were pretty happy to dive back into playtime.

 

Up North part 3

After a great experience in Ontonagon and the Porcupine Mountains, we picked up some doughnuts for the road and headed further on up the peninsula. We stopped at Twin Lakes State park along the way to get out of the car for awhile and enjoy our doughnuts.

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Houghton was another charming spot along the way.

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We took a nice long walk around town and made our way to the canal that cuts through the peninsula for shipping purposes.

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We even got to see the lift bridge lift for a passing sailboat

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Just up the hill was the old Quincy copper mine that had some impressive grounds to explore

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Of course Joe had no qualms about just waltzing into the ruins, but it turns out that’s allowed, encouraged, even!

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Imagine sitting on one of these “benches” with 29 other people and then being moved down the track to the level you were working at.

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No, thanks!

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Love a good scale model.

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It was SO hot that day, but you can’t keep Henry away from an old locomotive, no matter how much he’s sweating.

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Especially when it’s sitting on terrifying old rails like this.

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It felt so good to get to Eagle River. It was nice and cool, and the chilly waters of Superior were wonderfully refreshing. We just walked right in, clothes and all, straight from the car.

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The next morning, we drove up to Eagle Harbor to see the lighthouse.

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Charlie was loving wandering around the old buildings and learning about the history of the harbor. Henry especially liked the big anchors, buoys and other artifacts lying around.

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We took a roundabout route to Copper Harbor where we got this impressive view of the area.

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We found an old copper mine that actually allowed you to take a self-guided tour below ground at the first level. The Delaware Mine.

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It was pretty intense for Henry, but I thought it was really cool.

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We also happened upon an old fort for some above-ground exploration.

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We ended that packed day by taking in this waterfall back in Eagle River. This same water is what flows into Lake Superior where we spent the rest of our evening playing.

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Oh, and eating, too. We had delicious food right out on the beach.

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There’s the water from the falls! Joe started that snaking rock path.

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Henry and I couldn’t help but continue the work. As I built, it felt like the rocks just needed to turn into a spiral, so that’s what happened.

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Joe and Henry waded to the other side of the river to do some stone skipping.

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The sun going down over the lapping waves while I read my book on the boulders.

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Then I took a walk around town, arriving back just as the sun was hitting the horizon. I think our spiral looks beautiful in this light.

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One more day of our Up North travels to come!

Up North part 2

We began our time in the U.P. at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Joe brought us first to a series of falls on their way to Lake Superior.

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It was a fun trail, because we were on everything from regular dirt trails to boardwalks…

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stairs made of roots…

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and stairs made of boards.

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There were multiple points to go out and wander around the flowing water

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Joe always takes it as far as he can

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Learning about potholes

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The cherry on top of this area was following the water all the way to where it joined the big lake.

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First the boys and I dove right into the waves, but Joe then redirected us to the actual area where river meets lake, which turned out to be a delightful little secluded and calm spot.

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They practiced skipping stones. That’s a skill I gave up on long ago, and I’m fine with that.

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But those three really enjoy it.

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There’s Joe on the opposite shore. He’s an intrepid swimmer.

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We stayed in Ontonagon, MI. Our motel was just across the parking lot from the main drag, including the restaurant we ate several of our meals at on their street-side patio. Charlie was feeling a little sun-toasted, so this was his solution!

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The next day we hit Lake of the Clouds.

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It was quite a view right up front, and then you could walk as much on the trails along it as you wanted.

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We chose to just go a little ways and then head to some other trailheads. Next up was Summit Peak, which had a tall structure you could climb to get a good view of the area. Here’s Henry contemplating the stairs.

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Charlie loves being up high like this, so he was so content taking in the view.

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Henry was ready to get down low again.

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Finally in the day, we hit a trail designed to show historic points and share information about a specific mine in the area. The U.P. has a huge history of copper mining. This was my favorite trail, because it had the informational placards that Charlie loves, but was also just a beautiful walk through woods and along a creek.

I told them to show me their “mining face.”

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After we got back to the motel and ate some grub, we headed for an evening at the beach. We’d gotten an abbreviated time there the night before, but we were all anxious to get back to it again. It was a glorious beach, with soft sand good-temperatured water and a shallow depth for out as far as you could possibly want to go from shore. For Charlie, that was very, very far, while Henry preferred to mostly do excavating and building in the sand.

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I love the beach!

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That evening, I went for a long walk around town, and ended by walking  the full length of the beach while the sun set. It was amazing how drastically the sky changed as the moments ticked by.

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I mean, look at this!

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So gorgeous. Thanks, Ontonagon!

Up North. part I

TEN years ago today, we all had a big party together. Look at us gettin’ down!

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It was a magically fun day the whole way through, from a solo self-manicure at 6am to bocce ball that night at Half-Time Rec

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So much has changed since that day, but one thing hasn’t. Joe is the best partner ever and I’m lucky and grateful to have him.

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Also for our two little schnookum-bookums. Henry made me this congratulatory necklace this morning to celebrate our anniversary. It jingles.

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Three years ago, when we envisioned our 10-year anniversary, Joe and I decided to take a trip to Germany. Of course, we certainly didn’t picture 2020 at all the way it turned out.

Still, Joe planned a lovely road trip for us up the Keweenaw Peninsula in the U.P.

We stopped in Wausau, just to check things out, and we all found it very charming. We found we kept referencing it throughout the week.

There was even a great cupcake shop, Sweet Lola’s, that supplied us with sweets for that night.

Charlie liked all of their retro stuff.

That night we stayed at a cabin near Boulder Junction, Wisconsin with a couple from the Cities. The boys were excited about their bunk bed setup.

Heading down for a canoe ride!

 

There were oodles of eagles flying around the lake

That night we watched a glorious and unanticipated moonrise over the lake, prior to which we got to enjoy a vast, star-speckled night sky that we never get to enjoy in the city.

It was a lovely start to the trip. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is just way too beautiful for me to condense into one blog post, so we’re going to do this in the style of spring break where I do a post-per-day kind of thing. Buckle up!

 

Thank you all for going on this journey with me, whether I’ve known you way beyond the last ten years or only just recently. Here’s to much more!

On We Go

When you’ve put a lot of time and energy into planning and dreaming of something, it can feel deflating when it’s over. My vacation last week was like that. It was such a positive experience, so readjusting to real life took a few days. I felt annoyed by the reappearance of actual chores and let down by the seeming lack of an array of fun activities to choose at a moment’s whim.

What helped me adjust was (well…mostly time. But also…) arranging flowers.

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Taking the beautiful product of my time and energy throughout the summer and bringing it inside to brighten the interior landscape helped me feel grateful and happy for how wonderful a normal, “boring” day is for me.

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It was also really fun to pick up gumballs to fill the gift Grandma Jan passed down to me.

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I’ve loved it since the day they got it, so it was exciting to set it up. Now we just have to wait for the day that visitors are allowed to come to our home again, so we can share the gumball love.

After a few days of the boys reveling in being inside our house, they were ready for an excursion. Wednesday, we parked on Nicollet Island in the middle of the Mississippi River, and went for an explore. Early on, we found a stage, so Henry did a little dance for me.

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On the island, we admired the pattern of the water flow, how it was so still next to us, but just a short ways away it was gushing down a spillway with immense power.

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Downtown Minneapolis

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We went from one Hideaway to another!

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Charlie’s always got to read posted information. I believe this one was about the energy generated from this hydroelectric plant, and how it used to power the streetcars. I could be misremembering, though, so don’t quote me on that.

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A unicyclist!

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Not sure what this used to be, but the boys are always excited by it when we’re in this park.

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Approaching the Stone Arch Bridge

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It gives a good view of the falls

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We were finally allowed to see a lock! We’d been thwarted back in March. Here the boys are watching carp eat the algae that accumulates. I chose to watch the clouds, since I don’t love watching fish do much of anything.

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The boys were sworn in as Junior Mississippi River Rangers, vowing to protect, learn about and share their knowledge of the Mississippi River.

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She was also an entomologist, so she shared her knowledge and specimens with us. The boys had lots of questions, so she was tickled pink to “talk bugs,” as she put it.

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Hennepin Avenue Bridge

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I didn’t get a good shot of the Stone Arch Bridge, but you can just barely see it through the arches of that bigger bridge behind the boys.

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A train driving over the river

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Climbing up to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge

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We were hot and sweaty when we got back home, but also very happy. We headed down to our cool basement to watch Cinderella and lower our body temperatures.

The boys will be starting out the school year distance-learning, but my district doesn’t have its plan quite yet. So I headed in to my classroom yesterday to do some looking and thinking and configuring in case I’ll be doing anything in-person.

It’s a big job to set up a classroom! Here’s my little display box I’ll be in charge of. Until there’s student art to put in it, I want to come up with something.
What to do…what to do…

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Vaca in 2020

We joined our quarantine-bubble up with my parents last week for a very wonderful time on a tucked-away peninsula in southern Missouri.

But first, we hit Snookie’s.

The protocol there is different these days, but the treats are delightfully the same. I even tried something new!

The last time I’d been in Des Moines was in the middle of winter, and it feels like ages ago.

Happy as I was to be there, it was easy to keep heading south the next morning, because the lake awaited!

Charlie pretty much lived on the boat for the week.

He loves to be out on the water, floating, swimming and feeling the speed.

Whenever Henry went out, he immediately claimed his space as the figurehead up front. Just don’t call him that. He’s not a figurehead. He’s a person, as he had to remind us.

There was a lot of fishing to be done. It normally happens long before I wake up. Mark and Grandpa Mel go out together, sometimes with others in tow.

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Success!

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Someone caught a catfish that we were encouraged to go check out in the live well after breakfast. Henry was hesitant, but once he saw it he got motivated to try out fishing for himself. We asked Mark if he’d give us some help (I have nothing to offer in this particular area of expertise), and he did us one better. We took a few hours in his fishing boat that morning, just the three of us. It was not only a lovely experience, but also a fruitful one. Henry caught two largemouth bass within the first 20 minutes of our outing!

Video of Henry’s Catch

As you can see, the fish themselves kind of freaked him out, but he was proud and happy and really enjoyed himself.

A new porch addition onto the cabin the Grandma and Grandpa stay in allowed us to eat meals outside as a group. It was also a great place to just hang and play. Henry and Brady spent a lot of time telling each other stories and sharing knowledge.

Brady’s little sister, Brynn, was the focus of a lot of Charlie’s attention.

My cousin Blaine, Mo and their two

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Brynn was a big fan of the golf cart and gator, which she called, adorably, ‘Mo-mos!’ Here’s her grandma giving her a pretend ride.

The Vandegrifts were there this year, too, so there was a good group of the next generation.

My cousin Bobbi, and her three!

Caden really enjoyed bubbles.

The pool was a hot spot. Henry’s tiptoes finally reach the bottom in the shallow end, but I was glad I packed that Dory ring so he didn’t have to constantly be swallowing pool water.

Charlie was quite the retriever of sunken objects.

The marina was still open, despite the pandemic and whatnot, so we still got to enjoy seeing the boats come in for gas while eating ice creams. This propped up boat now serves as a seating area. It sat abandoned for years, and Charlie and I used to imagine what it could be. A few years ago, when we found it spruced up and in use, it was like a dream come true.

The boys are with my dad down on the dock there.

We also hit up a new marina this year. Mark took us for a boat ride to Shell Knob, which no one in our crew had ever been to before. He asked Charlie to be the GPS navigator, which Charlie happily took on.

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Caden smiling with his daddy and grandma on the way

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Here Mark is explaining the mysteries of the universe.

…like just how incredible Bill’s World Famous Lemonade is.

I got to blow some bubbles for Caden

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My two second-cousins, both currently living in the Twin Cities, were there, so we got some excellent bonding time in the boat and playing games in the evenings.

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They bring extra fun!

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Charlie behind the wheel

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We took a few lovely pedal boat rides. This one, I believe, ended in us watching rain come towards us over the lake and drenching us. It was wet, but beautiful and exciting at the same time.

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Some down time ‘bags.’

I liked their storage spot for the bags themselves.

Henry drew so much that Grandpa Steve had to pick up a sketchbook for him. He ran out of paper!

Mother-Daughter laughs at lunchtime.

Followed by my grandma learning more about Legos than she ever thought she’d know.

We did a joint dinner with the Beckers one of the nights–Mark and David spent all day monitoring the smoker so we could enjoy some amazing pulled pork.

After dinner, we hit the firepit for the annual s’mores roast. It’s always hot, sticky, messy and tasty. We convinced the Beckers to join us for that, too!

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It was a honey of a week. While we had to deal with very little rain, we got just enough that we got to see this beautiful rainbow.

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The ride home was pretty painless, since my dad was sweet enough to drive a rented mini-van. We had lots of space, movie capability and a fun third-row seat that the boys traded off sitting in.

Charlie entertained us with hours of strange-but-true crimes from an old Encyclopedia Brown book of my brother’s.

And speaking of…tada!

Saturday night, we had dinner with Grandma Betty and Grandpa John and enjoyed a big patio hang with Bret and Leslie afterward. It was simply wonderful to get to see so much of my family this week in REAL LIFE. Zoom just isn’t the same.

The boys were also thrilled to get some time at my parents’ house. It had been too long. Samantha, the American Girl doll, really needed a new hairdo, so Henry made sure to take care of that.

The boys were dying for Grandpa to push them on the swing so they could have a “parade,” whatever that means to them. I caught my dad twirling his finger around his ear, so I believe he was in the middle of telling them they are a little loco.

Our last stop out of town was to grab a latte at St. Kilda’s, the cafe in my brother’s building downtown.

The boys were also thrilled to get a chance to see Chrysanthemum

They helped Bret take the sweet old girl for water trips to keep from wilting in the hot sun.

Apparently from their loft window you can see that this seemingly abstract paintwork is a giant portrait of MLK!

Their home

And then when the rains came, we headed North.

It’s always so wonderful to get back to my own home after being away. It is the best best best to be with Joe. I also love my space and I love being in it. The cherry on top was going into my yard and bringing fresh flowers, that weren’t there when I left, into my home.

Little Joys Everywhere

I was clearing out the weeds along our side walkway the other day, and I discovered these two rogue oregano plants! Gotta love delicious herbs that pop up out of nowhere.

The pumpkin and hyacinth bean vine tangle has begun! I love love love this part of my yard. It makes me so very happy.

I gathered a few items together to bring to my new classroom last week. I planned on measuring and thinking about arrangements, but the cleaning crew was mid-clean process on it, so all we got was a brief in-and-out look. When I saw this sign outside the door…I swear my heart skipped a beat.

That’s me! I’M MS. NOVAK! The Art Teacher! Woohoooooo!!!!!!

So here’s a very empty look at my room.

Professor Novak at the whiteboard

Along with 8th grade art, I’ll also be teaching a straight-up ceramics class everyday. I’m pumped to have access to an electric and kick-wheel. The boys enjoyed trying out the kick-wheel.

They even acted out forming the clay. Attakids!

We’ve been trying to get out in the backyard in the mornings to enjoy the cool and shade. The other day, Henry wanted to turn their marble contraption pieces into a mini waterslide.

It turned out to be a lovely way to enjoy a hot morning

We went for a walk on Monday evening, and passed by the PoeTree…like a free little library but with poems passersby can add. We each thought of a sentence in our heads and then put them all together.

The first line was me, then Joe, then Charlie, then Henry.

I have no idea what’s going on in this next photo. I love it, though. Through the pandemic, these guys have really become awesome buds. They disappear into stories together and are oblivious of the world for a good hour at a time.

Sunday, we asked Joe to bring us somewhere cool. He did some research and came up with this place:

Willow Falls near Hudson, Wisconsin.

I can’t believe I had no idea this was 45 minutes away.

The water near the rocks was icy cold, but the stuff rushing from the falls was sun-warmed and felt wonderful.

Joe and Henry trudged fearlessly to the middle, while Charlie and I took our time and very slow steps.

Look at this tall kid! Nearly in fourth grade. Man.

The boys crawled behind the falls, while I basked directly beneath them, enjoying a natural shower

Glorious.

We had a late patio lunch in Hudson, so when it came time for dinner we didn’t really need much. I made us mango parfaits, and I will definitely be repeating that in the future. Beautiful, delicious and surprisingly filling.

This week, the boys are signed up for VBS through my parents’ Des Moines church. My mom suggested it, since it’s on the internet this year anyway, and I enjoyed it as a kid. It’s great timing, since we’re getting to the point in the summer where there’s some boredom setting in.

I’m letting them figure it all out on their own. Yesterday they did it while I was at the dentist!

This was their craft the first day–railroad tracks. Charlie’s is quite precise and just like the example (with little personal touches, like an added signpost and fishy in the water)

Henry wanted to do his a little differently, and wanted the tracks to look old and broken down.

He enjoyed it so much that he pulled out a long line of old computer paper to build additional track as wide as our dining room.

I love seeing how different my two kids approach the world. Isn’t it wonderful how many different ways of being there are?