Positive

Well, it finally happened. Henry caught the omicron variant last week. We were planning a family cabin trip last weekend, so we all took tests. Certainly were not expecting the results! He was very upset, poor guy. We only had 3 tests at home, so Joe got a rapid one the next day, and turned out he was positive, too. I made it through the weekend in the clear, but then tested positive on Monday.

Charlie’s managed to stay negative so far, and we’re all pretty much asymptomatic (although things definitely smell wrong to me right now). So those vaccines are working hard for us! Very thankful.

It’s a bummer to be quarantined for real again, but honestly, the timing was good. Our school district has been scrambling for staff with so many people out, so they sent the kids home to e-learn for two weeks. That means that instead of us all being home with nothing to do, we continue being part of our schools as much as we would have if we didn’t have covid.

We’re also big fans of outdoor outings, so we’re not exactly staying down in the dumps.

Here we’re exploring some frozen marshlands at Lake Elmo.

I’ve also been feeling very crafty while home, which has helped immensely. I’m hoping that hanging these letters in my classroom will help students remember my name. I don’t love getting called “Mrs. …Teacher?”

It’s been mostly cold, but Wednesday was amazing. The temps made for the best packable snow ever. Henry and I used it to make snow walls to destroy.

Charlie used it to make snow-fetti!

The sunshine felt amazing.

We’ve had indoor good times as well. I’ve done a lot of crossword-puzzling with Charlie, which is a delight, and a cookie-baking session on Monday helped raise our spirits.

Nothing better than fresh-baked cookies while imagining other worlds.

With all of us being on computers nearly the whole school day, the moments when we’re not feel super precious. It’s led to lots of silly things like Gaga Ball in the basement and doing Turbo Jam workouts as a family. The best, though, is when Henry says, “Do you want to play a _________ game?” which just means doing a dramatic role-play using a particular world as a setting. Yesterday, he pretended to be a delivery driver bringing me boxes of clay at school. We used my hand weights to act out bringing in the heavy boxes. For the second shipment, we decided balloons might be better cargo.

Here’s another get-up he concocted last night. Gotta love the commitment to a part.

See you folks on the other side of quarantine!

Snow Bird Christmas

We went to Des Moines for Christmas, and enjoyed some pretty comfortable temperatures. As soon as we got there, we headed straight to the new playground at Witmer Park.

It was such a nice chance to get in some good quality time.

Christmas Eve was so pleasant that we decided to take a nice hike.

Henry was tempted by the ice sheets on the pond, so while the crew played there, I headed up to the nearby Art Center.

Always nice to see the Goldsworthy eggs there. They remind me of ‘recess’ time during Day Camps when I was working in the Education Wing. Kids loved climbing into them.

I enjoyed the Justin Favela temporary exhibit, especially this giant Taco Pizza with a slice missing.

Oh, here it is!

There were no kids at any of our celebrations this year, so the boys had to kind of entertain themselves. They were great sports, though.

Joe and I took a night to go out on a date together, and had some pretty fun places to choose from. Even though we arrived 8 minutes before Bellhop was going to close, they took meticulous care of us.

After days of basking in the sunshine on the front porch, it was a bit disheartening to come back home to frickin’ freezing temps. This was my walk home from the grocery store.

To deal with the shift in temps, a trip to the Zoo was in order. It allowed us to roam the Tropics Trail and chat with Emma and Nora at the same time.

The boys did a good job showing Nora the secret kid passageways.

She, like little Charlie, was most into the ‘fishies!’

I have a new appreciation of the wood required for beaver dens, after the destruction up at the cabin.

Otters!

The snow monkeys were snacking on old Christmas trees, which was pretty great.

I think we tuckered Henry out, because when it was time to sort and fold all the laundry from the trip, he just snuggled on up.

My whole Winter Break was filled with glorious days. I loved loved loved it all, especially the times I got to connect with the people in my life.

My birthday really took the cake, though!

It was minute after minute of all my favorite stuff, and I am so grateful for Joe and the boys, and how good they are to me. After a 90 minute hot yoga session, I was all warmed up for some -7 temps while ice skating. For some reason there wasn’t anyone else at the park…

After lunch at home, we headed to the Walker Art Center.

I was specifically interested in the Julie Mehretu exhibit, and it did not disappoint.

Henry is amazing to look at art with, because he’s so observant and imaginative. He said, “There’s so much to see in art!”

In an upstairs gallery, there was a great frost buildup along the bottom of the door. Good to know I’m not the only one who gets a little lazy about weather-proofing doors.

There was a fun fort-type exhibit that we got to crawl into. I always like when there’s some interaction built in to exhibits.

Thanks to Joe for his documenting of our experience.

Here’s to 35! It’s definitely off to a happy start.

Our Winter Wonderland

I was informed this week that it has been a lot of weeks since my last blog.

“Certainly not!” I replied…but it turns out I just uploaded photos, but never actually wrote or published the post.

My apologies! It was a lot of birthday photos, so perhaps you can ask to see them at Christmas, or maybe I’ll finish it up at some point and do a retrospective. But for now, let’s talk SNOW!

After school on Friday, we kicked off our Winter Break with a 5-hour drive in the dark up Hwy 61. It was long, and ending by driving the Gunflint Trail at 9pm was a bit spooky, but it was all worth it once we arrived at Bearskin Lodge.

This was the view from our bedroom windows

We were greeted by friendly faces and a roaring fire!

The communal area of the lodge had games and puzzles galore, which Henry really dug into.

Of course, the emphasis of the weekend was cross-country skiing.

They went on many-hour runs over hill and dale…and frozen lakes. They were very proud to have made it to the Boundary Waters on their skis.

Most of the group does classic style, but Joe does both classic and skate, so he took a couple of opportunities for solo skate runs.

During one of those windows, a few of us drove into Grand Marais to explore the town and catch up with a good friend and her lovely daughter.

Henry naturally found the highest point around and climbed it. He must be part goat.

Everything around the harbor was coated in a shell of ice. It was so cool! Down by Charlie’s feet in this next shot you can see the individual blades of grass encased in it.

There were icicles to kick, but the tricky part was figuring out how to get down the icy slope without injury. Butts ended up being the preferred method.

The sun setting behind the water was simply a delight to witness

My attempt to capture the full moon behind the pine trees on the Gunflint in a moving car.

The plan was not that the boys and I would ski, but Henry wanted to, and Charlie and I sort of hemmed and hawed before agreeing to give it a try. It helped knowing Melinda was going to ski with us as well, and she’s 8 months pregnant. You can see my hesitation below as we just get our skis on. “Is this right?!”

Oh my goodness. I am SO glad I went out there. We had a rough, hilly start with lots of falls and some crying, but once we got our ski legs, it was pure joy.

Joe was very excited about our being converts!

Jeremy invited Henry and I to try out a bit of lake trekking, which was beautiful

Baby’s first ski!

When the cold sent us back to the lodge, the Hot Tub Hus was waiting for us. That was the most delightful part of the weekend for me. Here we are heading over there.

Most of the time was down time, hanging by the fire, puzzling, gaming, chatting, eating.

Here was the hang out area

The boys received some classic Game Boy games from Jake, and opened them on the drive up, so Charlie led us through the finer points of different games and consoles.

It was such a gorgeous weekend, and the company was outstanding. They all left right away Monday morning, though, so it felt easy to leave once the cabin was empty. The long drive back was not enticing, but since it was daytime, we were able to enjoy the scenery and make stops along the way. We spent a long time oogling all of the fun stuff in a friend’s store in Grand Marais, and popped through Lutsen downhill ski area to see what that looked like.

My hopes for the drive were to get in a little hike, see the Split Rock Lighthouse and experience frozen Gooseberry Falls. Check. Check Check.

The lighthouse and visitor’s center were closed for the week, but the shoreline was open

It was super satisfying to shatter the ice casings off of the boulders, and the boys got very into it. Meanwhile, Joe found a cave and played with ice photography.

It was hard to drag them away, but the next stop was nearby. Gooseberry is such a different experience in the winter! It was a little nerve-wracking with everything being so slippery, but it was all so beautiful.

Partially-frozen Waterfall from the side

It’s always a joy to adventure with these three, no matter where we go.

Reset

One month ago today was the last day at my old job. It was a glorious time of rest and walks and house projects and socialization.

And, of course, HALLOWEEN! Henry and I had a lot of fun planning out the costume construction, and I think they turned out great!

Carvers hard at work

Joe got pics of the final products, so I’ll try to add those!

Trick-or-Treating was great! Missing it last year was such a bummer, so we were happy to get back out there. We always stop in to Donna’s for a visit before we start, and she took our family photo. (I was Edna Mode, the super-suit designer from The Incredibles)

One house re-rigged up their social distance treat delivery system from last year, which was pretty fun to see in action!

We leave out a bowl of candy every year while we’re away, and it usually doesn’t get taken. This year the whole bowl was emptied! Maybe it was Henry’s wonderful sign that did it.

Henry had to endure his second quarantine session of the school year, so we had a lovely week home together. I processed our home-grown foods (apple and amaranth) next to him while he did his school work. He actually helped me discover a brilliant way of separating the seeds from the husks. Blowing lightly across them, the husks fly away and the seeds stay on the plate!

Total mess, but it was effective and efficient in a way that was a huge relief to me at that point.

One of the weekends we spent at a cabin in Wisconsin with a dozen of our closest friends. Joe’s parents’ cabin was just a few miles away, so we switched between hanging with friends and family.

It was chilly, but not so chilly that we could resist the call of kayaks

Over at the homestead, we watched some playful otters in the lake

We watched until it got dark, and then Grandma busted out some glow sticks

The next day, Jim showed us the damage from some beaver overpopulation. They built a new lodge right by where the tiny house will be, using…all the trees they could find! So we all worked together to put some wire around a bunch of trees to protect them.

And the boys maybe did a little exploring

The next weekend the boys got their first vaccine doses! There’s a clinic at the Mall of America, so it actually ended up being a really fun outing.

I super love how big my kids are getting, and enjoy them more every day. But there is just something about littles that makes me feel giddy. Luckily, we’ve got these two to watch grow.

Every week they have new things they do or say that I’ve never seen or heard them do before. It’s so cool.

And speaking of doing new things…

Today was Day Five for me at my new job. I have put a LOT of elbow grease into the room, getting it cleaned up and feeling cared for. Next steps are organizing the jumble of supplies and hanging artwork up on the walls (I didn’t do that bulletin board, but I love it, so at least something’s staying).

It was a difficult start, getting used to an entirely new school culture and knowing no one or nothing. Wednesday morning I was up in knots. But Joe and I did some processing, which helped me to shift some of my ideas and expectations. It all went better.

Then I watched my boys at gymnastics that night. They’re so willing to try, to fall, to land on their butt for the 100th time. Then they just get back up and do the next thing. It’s a good weekly reminder for me that new skills don’t come without trials and experience. You just have to do the thing over and over!

That night I went to the Chvrches concert at the Armory, basked in the music, and danced my cares away.

Refreshed and ready to fall on my butt, I headed in Thursday morning with a sense of calm. And the next two days felt pretty great! Not a bad way to end the first week of a new job.

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and you know what that means…birthday time!

Last night’s Family Dinner was a double birthday celebration: 11 & 91

We even had Ellie in town to celebrate with us.

Last night was the Beaver Moon. “Heeeeeey, Moon!”

Trust Fall

MEA weekend is a wonderful long weekend that Minnesotans in the education world look forward to. This year, it also marked the end of my job. I couldn’t wait for it to arrive, and was so looking forward to a long weekend with nothing on my mind.

And then I woke up.

The very next morning, I had a job offer in my inbox. Which, don’t get me wrong, is great…but I was really hoping to have some days where I didn’t have to think about a job and weigh pros and cons.

Hiking is, however, a great activity to do while thinking serious thoughts.

And Joe finds the best spots.

Hello up there! Henry and I were going at a little slower pace, talking about engines, so it was fun when we got to switchbacks and could see Joe and Charlie up above us.

We liked the stone steps, too

Up at the top!

An old shelter house built by CCC workers back in the day.

We had lunch in Lacrosse at a favorite spot of ours, and then headed to our lodging for the night in La Farge, Wisconsin.

It’s a cool old farm! Here’s the house

The farm cats were very friendly and curious. They leaped into any open door they saw, even if it was a trunk.

Or a car.

Why, they even leaped on top of Joe’s shoulders!

The farm animals were fun to observe

I was a pretty big fan of the donkey

There were even sheep!

There were trails and nooks and crannies all over the property, and it was so fun to explore. Henry and I found a good sittin’ spot.

Joe and Henry did some swing time

while Charlie and I took a hike up the hill to a fantastic viewing platform

Panorama capture of the view:

Cat!

The next morning, I headed up the hill to do some sunrise yoga, and Henry snuggled up on the couch to read one of his finds from the bookstore in Viroqua the day before.

It was COLD, but very beautiful with the frost everywhere.

A dog friend came and joined me.

Back at the house, the cats were scrambling for breakfast.

A loaf of fresh-baked muffins, bread, and fresh eggs were brought over from the main house. Truly a delight. We’d been instructed to give leftovers to the animals, so that was a great diversion for us! One of the goats had gotten out of the pen, and he kept trying to climb on top of Joe.

For a mid-morning warm-up, we hit Wonder State Coffee on our way back through Viroqua.

Our next destination was Des Moines, but we went by way of Yellow River State Forest.

I was verrry uncomfortable with the narrow dirt road up the hill. Our car isn’t exactly built for…terrain. But the trees were an amazing yellow, and it was great to stretch our legs for awhile.

The reason for our visit was to celebrate Julia’s marriage!

On a cold weekend, the sun really came out for the event

While it was a very short visit, it was definitely a sweet one!

Details are still getting worked out on the job front, but I did end up accepting the position. So, as long as bureaucracy all works itself out accordingly, I expect to be teaching at a school in Uptown very soon. In the meantime, I’m trying to take it easy and enjoy some slow, uneventful days!

Balance

A few weekends ago, Joe was up at the cabin with the car. Getting everywhere car-less was my favorite part about the weekend! We took bus rides, long walks and scootered along the creek. Our first destination was TRUCKSPLORATION. It’s one of our favorite annual events that was cancelled last year. Felt good to be back, checking out all the community helper vehicles.

In the Viking’s Table truck that provided a tasty lunch for us.

Gotta love a walk home that takes you by Lake Harriet.

The next day, after a glorious scooter/walk to church, Sarah drove us all out to an apple orchard.

None of us actually wanted/needed apples (our apple tree fruited this year, so we’ve got oodles), but I pushed hard for the corn maze, and we all wanted to hit up the pumpkin patch.

The boys leading the way

Charlie made an excellent choice

Sarah did NOT understand why the pumpkins were neatly cut from the vines.

Ahhhh! Family dinner. Charlie looks forward to seeing his cousins all week.

The next weekend, a local ski hill opened up their chairlifts for rides to view the fall foliage. It’s still pretty green here, but it was a total win of an event. It was fun to get the views, and at the top of the hill there were bonfires, food, and live music.

Afterward, we hit up a big ol’ potluck with friends

Testing out Gigi’s new bike

I also tried a beginner aerial yoga class that was…incredible! I’m super excited to do more.

So all that good weekend outdoor time with wonderful people has been what powers me. Work was just feeling worse and worse. Seeing their art all up when we did critiques was inspiring and happifying. Here are some particularly fun ones

But still…it wasn’t enough. I hated the way I felt in the class space most of the time, and I spent hours awake in the middle of the night stressing (and trying not to stress, but then stressing that I couldn’t stop stressing…you all know what I mean). Diving into a particularly difficult age group–that I have no experience with–during a pandemic last year was obviously challenging. But having 40 of them, who are post-pandemic stressed and have forgotten how to exist at school together, in a collaborative classroom with art supplies…well, I just don’t have the classroom management experience for that. One day.

Two weeks ago, I decided to put in my notice. Today was my last day in that classroom. As I have been packing up the things from the room that are mine, I took a closer look at one of the collages I made in grad school and have displayed. It’s a really big collage, but I liked this particular area. Felt fitting for me right now.

I’m thrilled to be done, and to have nothing definite on the horizon. Getting to see the boys tackle their own new challenges, like riding a two-wheeler and learning cello are making me feel so happy.

It’s also a good reminder that skills take time. While sometimes we have to frantically doggy paddle when life dunks us into the ocean, swimming can be way less stressful and be handled more gracefully if we master basic strokes first. I’m incredibly lucky that I am able to opt out of the deep water that I’ve found myself in, and figure out where my shallow end is to build up my skills and strength.

WEEKENDS

I think most of you who follow this blog know that I’m not exactly loving the experience of teaching middle school. With class sizes around 40, I’m feeling that first-year-teacher inexperienced feeling pretty strongly. It can be scary, exhausting, overwhelming, annoying, frustrating, etc.

Then, the other day, a student showed me a drawing. I had been teaching them about one-point perspective, and their assignment was to practice their newfound perspective skills to draw a room that they would love to be in.

She drew my classroom.

!!!!!!!!!

Still, the daily grind is a lot. So, I’ve been really trying to take full advantage of the weekends. A few weeks ago, my neighbor asked if I’d like to learn how to can tomatoes. “Of course!” I said, thinking it was more of a hypothetical question. But 91 year olds don’t ask that many hypothetical questions. She promptly instructed me which farmer’s market to visit, what time to get there, and how many tomatoes to buy. “What time will you be over tomorrow morning?” she asked.

So I woke up early that Saturday to buy a half-bushel of tomatoes, and grabbed a crepe for breakfast while I was there.

Then we headed over to do some canning while Joe played his weekly game of tennis.

Donna showed the boys how to skin, but Henry preferred washing and salting the tomatoes and cleaning the rims of the jars.

Charlie was an expert skinner and jar stuffer

It’s fun to do things with experts.

We played Taboo while we waited for the cooking and sealing to take place

We ended up with 14 jars…21 pints in total volume

That afternoon we celebrated Lukie’s second birthday!

The kids are all getting so big

Sunday we hit a Van Gogh exhibit. Some of his works were digitized and then turned into an animated film that was projected onto walls and floors of a gallery space.

I liked some parts better than others, but the music was great and it was fun being covered in colors

I also hit a friend’s performance at Aster Cafe. It’s so great to experience live music again

The next weekend, my parents came up for a visit!

The weather was PERFECT, so we went on lots of walks.

We actually hadn’t been to our park in quite awhile, so that was a good spot to stop and do some sand adventuring.

You might have noticed Joe’s not in any of these photos as well. He was up at his parents’ cabin building the floor of our future Tiny Home.

Men At Work

This weekend, he’s got the car up at the cabin again, so we’re currently exploring via bus and scooter. Today, we hit up Trucksploration, one of our favorite annual events.

We hit ’em all. The Sheriff’s Mobile Control Center was their favorite this year.

In the Vikings Table coach bus/food truck

We walked over half-way home, since it was a nice route along Lake Harriet, before catching the bus again.

Then we had an apple-picking session in our front yard.

Harvesting can be so rewarding! Here’s my amaranth.

Tomorrow we’ll be hitting up an orchard & corn maze with friends. I just love fall.

Calm Before The Storm

School just started for us here in Minneapolis. It’s been a hectic start, with some highs and lows. But we knew it was coming, so we made the very best of our last few weeks of summer break.

We checked off everything on our Do-Before-School list, including some great playgrounds.

There’s never any shortage of silliness or adventure with our crew, but for good measure, we made a special effort to get some more of that in, too.

I harvested a whoooooole tablespoon of lentils from my garden. Always fun to try growing something new.

Henry couldn’t wait for Labor Day Weekend to play a specific card game with Zach and Derek, so we drew our own cards and played it with “Henry Rules.”

I had been waiting until COVID was “over” to visit my friends in Chicago, but that is obviously not going to be anytime soon. So I bought a last-minute plane ticket to reunite with my lovelies after such a very long time.

I swaddled and bounced this little sweetheart when she was a month old, and that was the last time we’d been together!

When it’s been a year, breakfast just is NOT enough time to catch up. So we ended up turning one meal into two, with a long walk in between.

Chef Ryan invited us to his new house for an incredible dinner, followed by some lively badminton in the backyard.

All weekend, Rosie was dying for her daddy to dance with her while listening to Tool. It was…simply beautiful.

The next day, back in the Twin Cities, I got to see two more very special 2-year-olds. It’s so fun how different they all are from each other.

We also had some special guests. Hi, Helen and Elizabeth!

On Friday, we headed up to the cabin for the long weekend.

The littles got really into throwing rocks into the water.

We anticipated chilly weather, but it was simply gorgeous, and it wasn’t buggy.

“Ready for a game, Henry?”

As always, the swing set was a happenin’ place.

(This is actually a photo from last time we were at the cabin, but Colleen sent it to me later on, and I love it!)

Henry’s happy place

S’mores using Snickers. S’nores?

I knew Charlie liked canoeing and wading around in water…so I wondered if he would like kayaking. I suggested it, and it turns out…yes!

After watching for awhile, Henry, naturally, wanted to try it, too.

Once Charlie was done, I joined Henry for the last little bit. It was lovely!

Such a great end to summer.

When we got home, our new kitchen blinds had been delivered, so for my last home-improvement task before the school year kicked off, I installed them.
Checking things off my list feels so good!

Happy Camping

This past weekend, we drove up to Bayfield, Wisconsin, on the Lake Superior shore to take the ferry across to Madeline Island.

Joe is a great adventure planner, and this one was to celebrate our 11th anniversary, which was on Saturday.

We camped at the Big Bay Town Park. It was the first time the four of us have all camped together, and it went just wonderfully!

The last time we were on the island, I was pregnant with Henry. I also bet this tree was upright then. Not often you see a tree from the bottom!

I distinctly remembered beautiful, huge rocks on the shoreline of the State Park. I wanted to get back to see them again, so we went for a hike.

We found them!

I just love the water!

Henry had been antsy to get the hike over with, but once he found this spot, we couldn’t drag him away.

Hello, Joe!

After the hike, we hit the town looking for lunch. Luckily, I had brought snacks, because once we saw the docks lined with boats, lunch had to wait. Each boat needed to be examined first.

Shuffleboard at the lunch spot

…followed by some ice cream. I liked that Henry’s ice cream matched his suit.

Then, it was finally time for the beach!

Charlie’s that tiny black dot in the water in the upper left corner of this pic.

Naturally, Henry had to bury himself.

The water felt so refreshing!

Someone had dug a really deep hole, so the boys contributed

Then it was the perfect time to roast some hot dogs for dinner

Then Henry got to do some fire poking before bedtime.

It felt wonderful to sleep in our own beds Sunday night, after two nights in sleeping bags. It’s also always fun to see how my plants look after being away. Even though it was only a few days, I feel like my hydrangeas really went nuts.

TRL 2021

Now, an image like this is not where I would normally start a post about our annual vacation on Table Rock Lake. But then, this just wasn’t a normal year.

This is a thing you crawl through that gives a bit of the feel of caving, apparently. I was not interested in putting myself through that.

Henry was!

Charlie, too, though he got less enjoyment out of it.

Through a sort of comedy of errors, a good chunk of our family ended up at a different resort this year. The day that our crew went to visit their crew, we weren’t really invited, since the boys had had migraine symptoms a few days before.

So, in the spirit of the theme of the week, we made lemonade out of our lemons!

I even made a friend who stayed with me for over 10 minutes until I had to go into a building. So I politely invited them to fly away!

All of this took place at Talking Rocks Cavern in Branson.

I get excited by caves, so I all but insisted that we go here. Dad and Joe chose not to go underground this deep, but the boys and Mom were super game!

It was super cool. Apparently, the first tour guides were two ladies, Hazel and Pansy, who gave the tours using a single candle. They turned the lights off so we could see what that would be like. GAH!

Mom sneaking through the curtains

Now, back to some more familiar scenery! Joe took this one morning while fishing with Gramps.

He even caught something

Mark photographed the fish Grandpa caught that same morning. Gramps said, “It’s barely bigger than the lure!”

The pool down there often has algae issues, so it gets closed for…clarification. I love pool time, but I actually don’t mind when it’s closed, because hanging out down at the dock and swimming in the lake is such a relaxing alternative.

Okay, maybe the trampoline part isn’t so relaxing, but it is a fun challenge.

Joe waiting for the hammer to fall

The boys love looking at the boats. Charlie’s at the stage where he’s checking out features and accessories.

Henry’s all about the motors.

At one of the marina docks, they have the boats lifted, so he could get really good views of those motors. He had me take a lot of photos of them…

…for drawing inspiration and reference.

Grandpa’s boat was out of commission this summer, so the Beckers VERY generously invited us to crash their boat outings, and even use it when they weren’t around. One of the days, they drove us out to Shell Knob for some World Famous Lemonade!

On the way back, we dropped in on the Petersmas to say ‘Hey!’ and go for a quick swim. Here we see Henry figuring out what to do in deep water after going down the slide. He made his way over to me, coughing, to pronounce, “Turns out I can swim if I have to!”

Those two up front are good little buddies

Nothing like vehicles, Legos and swimming to bring friends together.

The little lady’s a bit too young to really play too much with the bigger kids. But she discovered she could drag me just about anywhere. She especially loved bouncing on Grandma Jan’s bed after dinner.

The bigger kids thought that looked like fun, too.

Did your bed feel a little lumpy that night, Grammy?!

This dude just loves water. Especially zooming across it on the boat.

Nothing better than your first sunset cruise!

Although monitoring GPS and speed during day cruises with friends is pretty amazing, too

Oh, the front-of-the-boat times. I remember them so fondly. We cousins used to wit up there and compare nutrition facts from our pops.

Charlie and Henry’s favorite meal of the year is when David and Mark spend all day smoking pork and then everyone else brings a smorgasbord of side dishes. The Petersmas made the trek over that day to partake. It did not disappoint!

We also then got that whole day to hang with them. The newest member of the group learned that Charlie’s face makes a very good drum! Babies just love Charlie.

Our final day ended in kind of a bummer. Mark was taking us out for one last boat ride/ski, when the motor just gave up. Luckily, he has a fishing boat as well. He called Joe to drive it out to get us. We all got to see first-hand how to tie two boats together so one can tow the other.

Henry was very shaken by the event.

But the experience has been part of many a drawing and story ever since. He’s shown me countless pictures in which a motor has “shredded a belt.”

Those motor pictures have now undergone much photo editing by him as well. Isn’t there just inspiration everywhere you look?!

Twin Cities Love

The Monday after we got back from Maine, we had a very special Family Dinner, with Grandma Helen in attendance and Ellie joining us all the way from Cape Cod.

Henry had lots of information to share with Grandma.

Ellie took some lovely photos of the crew!

Henry kept going back in for more Helen hugs ❤

Ellie gave us a delightful kids cookbook, which kick-started the boys’ dive back into cooking. I go through phases where I remember they love to cook and make time and space for it. So this was a perfect whack over the head for me.

They cooked three nights in a row

Okay, so this was more like…baking…but you just don’t say no to kids wanting to make you cupcakes with Reese’s in them. You just don’t.

Discovery of the month was the Riverview Theater’s children’s movie matinees. It’s an amazing old-style (and just generally old…but in great shape) theater. It was Henry’s first time seeing a new movie in a theater! We saw The Croods: A New Age, which was actually really fun. Nick Cage does the voice for the caveman father, and Cloris Leachman is the feisty grandma.

Ready for the show!

The weekend of the Fourth, the boys spent in Wisconsin with Grandma and Grandpa. I drove them up there, and Henry had a tough time saying goodbye when I tried to leave. We realized it’s the first weekend we’ve spent apart in…????

But I did make my way back to the Cities, and Joe surprised me with a night’s stay in an old Summit Ave Mansion, enjoying the Cathedral Hill neighborhood, even taking a swim at the University Club, or as their signage says: Vniversity Clvb.

We hosted a party for the Fourth, and then got to have lunch on Monday with my dad, who drove all the way from Pella, Iowa to deliver us new furniture! What a guy!!!

Here we are enjoying the sofa from Grandma Jan and Grandpa Mel’s former living room. They did all of the hard work of moving to a new place, and though a crew of folks were actually there to help, somehow we got lucky and got a furniture upgrade. We’re very grateful!

Sometime during the pandemic, Joe and some friends started playing darts in each others’ garages. The boys really struggle to throw that high, so I made them a makeshift version of the board and hung it lower. So come play darts with us! All heights welcome

There must have been something going around in my family that week that compelled us to drive long distances to be someplace for significantly less time than we spent in the car to get there. Drew and Grandma Betty and Grandpa John came up to enjoy a Twins’ game and invited us along!

It was simply perfect weather for enjoying a game. We didn’t roast or freeze, but simply enjoyed the pleasant breeze…with some ice cream, of course.

Look, Gramps! A photo of you and me together. Only one post later than promised.

We’ve gotten to enjoy some quality time in Katy’s backyard this week. Here Henry is using a golf club as a cane, pretending he’s a little old man. I distinctly remember doing that myself as a child!

Last weekend, we had lunch at the St Paul Airport. Did you know that was a thing?! Me either. It’s for small, private planes. We got to watch someone land this plane, park it and walk right up to the restaurant for lunch. Then they took off again!

We were not flying anywhere, but rather on our way to Battle Creek Park for a nice hike.

We ended up getting turned around when Henry wanted to follow a mountain bike trail, so the boys were feeling like this by the end:

Didn’t help that Henry realized his shoes are too small. Turns out they were two sizes too small! So we fixed that the next day. Here he is showing off both his new shoes and the lightsabers he made out of gift wrap tubes and duct tape.

This week they’re at Y camp during the day, so I’ve been able to have free time and get projects done. Yesterday when I was walking home from yoga, I saw this in progress.

We miss you, Curran’s!

Overdue Reunion

This is going to be an epic post, because we just got back from an epic vacation.

11 years ago, the Sikkinks celebrated my grandparents’ 50th anniversary by all gathering in Saco, Maine. It was such a hit, that it’s now an every five years tradition. Well, almost. The third was planned for last summer, but did not happen for obvious reasons. So this was the make-up reunion!

It was mere moments after we arrived, that the boys wanted to head to the ocean beach that was conveniently only a block away. Grandma and Grandpa rose to the occasion. Here they are returning.

In the evenings, the crew gathered at my aunt and uncle’s house nearby to eat, play games and chatter. It had been a very long time since I’d seen most of them!

Then we’d go back to our home on the marsh. So beautiful!

Sunday was the ‘Sikkink Open,’ the family golf tournament. Charlie lists this as his top favorite memory of the trip.

I hear he’s a bit of a wild cart driver!

Mom and I opted out of the golf tournament when I was about 14, so we spent an exploratory day walking around Biddeford.

That afternoon, we met for a family photo. Lynn’s a pro, so she helped orchestrate folks into the best arrangement.

Here we are waiting for our instructions

Great-grandparents!

Each day was a big day for this little guy!

Then we all had to do some exploring. It’s so fun to watch the water and rocks meet.

The morning coffee spot

Monday, we went in to Portland, which is just delightful.

It happened to be a music festival all over the city, so we happened upon some fun stuff, like a clawfoot tub on the sidewalk that anyone could climb into to ‘sing in the shower.’ I regret missing the opportunity, but truly every song except ‘Happy Birthday’ went right out of my head!

We found a kid-centric band that Henry and I enjoyed while the others explored (or got their hair cut, in Joe’s case).

On a recommendation from Joe’s stylist, we hit Highroller Lobster, and were really glad we did.

Oh, hey there, Portland Headlight!

Charlie took this one:

The ocean was an everyday spot for me.

Henry really got into the sand.

The beach was a great place for the kids to bond.

Joe and I had a date night in Biddeford that started out with amazing food and cocktails and ended with a labyrinthian explore in the rain through the mill complex. Perfect.

I’d always wanted to walk from our part of the beach to Old Orchard Beach, not for the destination, just to make the journey. Nobody seemed to think four miles of beach walking was worth it.

But I convinced a few people this time!

My cousin is getting married this summer. Many of us won’t be able to make it back to Maine for the ceremony, but the bride’s mother thoughtfully arranged to have the shower take place while we were all there.

We all had a LOT of fun creating our collective gift for her

Such a pretty location!

A side benefit of our jaunt to OOB, was the discovery of a wonderful soda fountain in Ocean Park. Joe and I walked the boys up there the next morning for breakfast. They found their own table for two!

Then we met up with a bunch of the crew in Kennebunkport for a boat cruise and lobster lesson.

We spent pretty much the whole trip up front. Where better?!

Hello, Lobster!

Buds

We did lunch back in Biddeford in one of the big former textile mills.

The cafe was called Jackrabbit, and the boys loved all the bunnies around!

Group Photo # 2!

After our lobster tour, it was lobster boil night.

We followed up the lobsters with s’mores

The kids kept vanishing, and we found out later they’d made a ‘home’ in the woods. There were tick checks and lots of bug bites that came out of it, but it was totally worth it to hear the fun they were having. Henry wanted me to document their forest home so he could remember it.

Back to Biddeford! While Joe brought my parents to the airport, the boys and I wandered through the shop-filled streets of Saco and Biddeford. Here we are on the footbridge.

A particular antique shop was our destination. Henry found a great book on how to draw trains.

Joe met up with us for lunch at the dining car.

Then we learned about the history of the town and its mills.

Then we had one last trip to the beach and a final evening with the crew. It was windy and cold, so Henry dug himself a wind shelter.

A great week! It was hard to leave, but always good to get home.

The first night home, I slept in until 11:15am. Apparently I had some catching up to do!