Shine

After starting school, Charlie commented to Joe that he was getting less movement during the day than in the summer. It made it harder to fall asleep. The next night, while sweating in the hot, humid day, we pondered what we could do that evening to get in some activity. Swimming came up, and we all jumped at the idea!

Lake Harriet really came through for us, though Joe seems reluctant to admit it in this shot.

Oh…it was just that I asked him to directly face the sunset.

This past weekend, a dear friend from college got married, so Joe and I headed to Chicago. The first person I got to see was Rosie! We celebrated her birthday with cupcakes and dancing.

As you can see, she’s got a brand new sibling, so having a special time to celebrate just her was pretty important.

I was delighted to get to meet Alice, though!

The extended weekend was like a mini Macalester reunion, but with just friends!

Friday, Tina and I tried to meet up at a botanical garden, but the buses were making things difficult. We did our own things instead, but ended up at exactly the same place! Jane’s sister-in-law recommended I check out the Bahai House of Worship, and right as I entered, I saw Jack and Tina! The gardens and temple were stunning and such a peaceful place to be before a weekend of activity, social engagements, and logistics.

Like, for instance, how do you get six people to a wedding in a five-person car?
(Answer: I jump in the trunk!)

The ceremony was very touching, and everyone looked so beautiful!

Gotta love a photo booth

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my parents were champs and came up to stay Thurs-Sunday so the boys could do school uninterrupted and have a weekend with them. Looks like they got some haircuts while Grandpa grilled burger!

They got in Luke’s birthday party and a Saint’s game on all the same day!
These guys are pros.

After a morning and afternoon wandering the Loop together, Joe and I disappeared into our headphones on the plane. As we approached the Cities, his nose got closer and closer to the window.

It was good to get back to these guys and the shenanigans we all get into together.

Gearing Up

In April, I planned a whole new configuration for the living room, after moving the giant Lego table out. Charlie’s stuff finally arrived last week, so it was time to start exploring chair options. I wanted them to actually sit in different options and feel out what kind of seating would be best, so we headed to a place that sets up scenarios for you to wander through and experience: IKEA.

Charlie hadn’t been there since he was in preschool, so he was pretty enthralled by the experience.

“Is this the right size, Mom?!” he joked.

Their favorite area was the wardrobes, where they spent about a half hour hiding in each of the different ones, deciding which would be the most comfortable hidey-hole.

They found what they thought they’d like, but I wanted them to think on it for a while first.

As much as we all tried to stay in denial, the school year kept creeping closer, and things like school supply lists and Open Houses starting becoming realities. Both boys move to new schools this year, Henry to the 3-5 school, and Charlie to middle school (6-8). Charlie’s school, Justice Page, felt massive to him, but luckily at his Open House, who was there waiting to greet all of the students at the door, but Justice Alan Page himself. How cool is that?

Middle school’s a big transition, and I’m finding myself having to come to terms with having less control in the boys’ life. For instance, when we hit the park for a scooter, I simply couldn’t keep up with them on foot. To insist that they go slow or wait for me constantly would have lessened the enjoyment and fun. Instead, I made sure they could find me when they needed, and let them zoom off out of my sight, trusting that the scary monsters I envision in my head are unlikely to manifest in reality and that my boys would be smart and careful.

They’re the tiny dots on the path across the water.

It’s hard, this parenting thing. It’s beautiful to see them so capable and independent, but I’m guessing the protective fear you have about whether they’ll be okay never goes away.

It’s just something I’ll have to carry while I gain more time and energy to pursue my own interests. Like book club! We’ve been meeting for over 10 years now.

The last thing before school starts is always…FAIR WEEK! Joe’s parents have developed the tradition of taking the boys, but this year I decided to tag along. Apparently, they often start the day off by riding the big Ferris Wheel. It was my first time!

Charlie had his eyes on the RVs and Ice Houses, but Henry couldn’t get enough of the tractors. They had a display of running tractor engines separate from the tractors themselves, and he was transfixed.

He had lots of questions for this guy.

Crop Art! I totally agree with these two being given high prizes.

Henry enjoyed imagining himself at Hogwarts

and Charlie was way into the baby animals.

Everyone was into the cookies.

We thought our excitement was over for the summer, but Zach threw out one more spontaneous adventure for us. He’s an airplane mechanic, and he invited us to come to the hangars!

The boys and I were very impressed and excited. We got to see a brand new plane, a thirty-year old plane, and a very very large plane.

In the cockpit of the 1990s plane

Look! I’m in the pilot’s chair!

The boys had a lot of questions

This was the very very big plane. It was bonkers.

Charlie had fun counting how many seconds it took him to walk front-to-back and from wingtip to wingtip. I don’t remember the final totals, but I know it was longer than the toddlers had patience for!

After all that, we needed some food. With the Mall so close, the boys wanted to go to a specific pizza place they like there. They have old arcade games they like watching the demo screens on.

And then…we decided to get the chairs! They were right across the street after all, and both boys were still set on the ones they’d picked out. So after one more test sit, we headed down to the storage area to find the boxes we needed amongst all the massive shelves. It was quite an adventure.

Then Henry had some fun in the checkout line with the bucket hats.

And…voila! Comfy seats for drawing, Lego-ing, and homeworking ease.

Oh! Did you think we were done? Nope, not quite yet. Labor Day Weekend is for cabin times, after all. It was nice to get in some good quality down time with folks.

The lake felt wonderful in the sunshine!

Henry loved the sandbar.

Nora loved shoving him off the seat

Everybody had fun.

It was hard to leave the tranquility and come back to the bustle, and hard to watch Charlie get on the school bus with the big 8th graders hanging out the back window. Their first days went well, though, and we’re all adapting to our new routines. It’s all good.

Still Summering

I know school starts up around now for a lot of folks, but we’re still in full on summer mode. The boys did another week of Y camp, which was fun for them and a good opportunity for me to find peaceful, outdoor spots for writing and drawing. Minnehaha Creek got a lot of my time, but the hidden amphitheater at Caponi Art Park in Eagan was probably my favorite. Here’s the view from up on the hill.

On days Joe is off work you never know just where we’ll end up!

Like the stacks in the downtown library…

…or a food hall with Detroit-style pizza. Henry had fun building earthquake-proof Jenga towers while Charlie and I challenged each other to rounds of Taboo.

The cousins are all getting bigger. It’s fun to get to hear their words and ideas, and to see them get braver and more comfortable doing things on their own.

The babies are getting bigger, too, of course, but it’s great that they’re still very much little squishes!

Doting Charlie!

The machinery next door to the Novaks is slowly getting sold off, and the boys are feeling quite nostalgic about that.

Back home in south Minneapolis, we’ve been taking some epic walks while imagining ourselves as adventurers. Minnehaha Creek is about a mile south of us, so it is often where we end up after wandering out the front door on a walk.

The path along the creek is paved, but there are dirt trails in some spots where it feels more like you’re in the wilderness.

We tried building up stepping stones to cross the creek at a low point recently, and in the process, Henry just ended up wading through the water.

There are also two flood pools a few blocks from our house, which are nice for quick nature dose when you need one.

There’s a lovely weeping willow that makes for a nice little hide-away while watching ducks.

Oh, this is just someone’s boulevard garden. It’s tiny, but so beautiful, and we comment every time we walk by how perfect it is.

Grandma and Grandpa went on a whirlwind tour of Minnesota recently, and we got lucky enough to be one of their stops! We hit up the Mall of America, which is apparently celebrating its 30th birthday. That surprised me. I remember it opening!

We unanimously agreed that we wanted to ride the Paul Bunyan Log Chute and the Pepsi Ripsaw! (It’s actually now the Pepsi Orange Crush, but it’ll always be the Ripsaw to me). Joe was with us, too, but he’s the photographer.

There were a couple of points left after our rides, so Charlie and Henry rode the roller coaster on their own! I know you can’t see them, but they’re in the last car.

Moose Mountain was calling, and we answered the call. Grandma and I both got two holes-in-one, but who’s counting??

We’ve been waiting for months for the desk we ordered for Henry to arrive. It showed up shortly after my grandparents did, so they had the joy and privilege of watching me wrestle it into assembly.

Tina was an all-star a few months ago and managed to snag a coveted reservation at Owamni. I was lucky enough to be able to take one of the seats. Everything was so delicious!

That same afternoon, after eating while overlooking the Mississippi in downtown Minneapolis, I overlooked the Mississippi again from downtown St Paul. Charlie requested a Science Museum trip, and he and I had a blast.

The next day, Joe and I celebrated our 12th Anniversary with a night at the new Four Seasons in Minneapolis. It was totally luxurious and super fun. I loved the rooftop pool and hot tub!

The view from our room.

Charlie had wanted to get to the train museum for a while, so we finally made that happen this week.

Then we did the Zoo the next day. It’s only summer for so long, amiright?!

The playgrounds there are so cool, especially this one along the wetlands.

The special exhibit right now is Llama Trek, where you get to amble amongst llamas. It was great!

Charlie requested we make a stop in the other playground, because it’s a place he often finds himself in when he dreams. How often do you get to literally make dreams come true?

Though now that I mention it…

Here’s our little house in the woods, which originated in one of Joe’s dreams. Now it’s a real structure. The boys are standing in Joe’s and my loft, and I’m taking the picture from their loft.

Charlie is excited about the finished product!

Henry was a pretty big fan of it in its current state. He was a little too comfortable walking over the boards stretching from one loft to the other.

When you stand at the shore of the site, you can just make out the dock at the big cabin. Henry is standing on the end of the dock below. It’s about 1/3 of the way from the left edge of the picture. It’s super teeny, so don’t feel bad if you can’t make it out.

Back at the big house!

On our drive home, we stopped at Straight Lake state park. This was Rainbow Lake.

It was a mosquito-filled walk, but we saw some extraordinary mushrooms all along the way.

Back home, my herbs are thriving, so I’ve been trying to incorporate them into as many things as possible, including infused syrups for some delicious mocktails and cocktails.

So pretty!

Much Needed Time

I know it’s been awhile, but don’t worry. I’ll catch you up on the highlights of our summer so far. The boys have only been on summer break for a little over a month now, since the school year was extended to June 24. So, we’ve been savoring our precious free time.

Here they are on their last day! Last day at Hale Elementary for Henry and last day at Field Elementary for Charlie.

We’ve seen several movies in theaters, including The Bad Guys, Minions: Rise of Gru, and the first Harry Potter movie.

You know we enjoy a good walk. This is the Woodlake Nature Center.

My cousin got married in Pella, so we had a nice Iowa weekend in early July.

The crew

Weddings are not exactly known for being fun for kids, but Bret thoroughly entertained the boys during the reception. Thanks, bro!

This is seven tons of rock. We helped with a little of the sorting, but Bret and Leslie have really outdone themselves on their yard. It’s so lovely and inspiring!

Julia has been traveling the country this summer, and we got the pleasure of her company after her first Boundary Waters adventure. She helped me take the boys on their first long bike ride, so we treated her to some pretty gardens and a dock hang at Lake Harriet.

Joe’s been very busy with his new job, but he really makes his down time count. Always more to explore!

The Novak crew all met up for a Saints game. Unfortunately, rain made the field unplayable, but we still got to hang around the stadium and watch Toy Story.

Did you hear? Henry got glasses!

After the success of our trail bike ride to Lake Harriet, we ventured the other way along the creek path and hit up Lake Nokomis. Hooray for summer!

Joe’s finally managed to fit in some time to work on the tiny house. Jake and Ryan helped with the heavy lifting and hauling.

Jim then set to work framing up Joe’s vision so they could put in more work this weekend. So exciting!

While he was doing that, I was down in southern Missouri enjoying the same peninsula I’ve visited nearly every summer of my life.

Being a kid down there is such an adventure!

I brought a puzzle this year, and it ended up being a big hit…

…with all ages!

Nothing like getting out on the water, though.

Every night, the Beckers go for a sunset cruise. We joined them when we could.

Mark had fun teasing us by hiding in the water.

So we took a photo without him to try to lure him back in!

This year we had the big lodge, which made group dinners during the 100 degree temperatures much more comfortable.

Plenty of room for all!

Henry wanted me to document the pretty painting in our bedroom.

There were also more docks built this year at Hideaway, so there were even more boats to check out.

And boy, did we.

The final sunset cruise. We’re a very serious bunch.

Per Mark’s repeated request, Henry finally came geared up with goggles and suit, so he could jump in toward the sunset. I don’t remember why, but there was a lot of laughter going on while he and Mark got set up.

And off they go!!!!

It looked like such fun that Charlie and my parents decided to go as well.

Speaking of jumps, this was the first year the kids went off the rope swing. What a milestone!

These kids are just getting so big.

What’s that Mark’s got?

Ugh!!!

It’s one of his and Grandpa’s morning catches. Here’s another.

It was a fabulous week. Swimming, boating, sunshine, and togetherness.
Who could ask for anything more?

Blossoming

I love the changing of seasons. It excites me while simultaneously bringing my awareness to the evanescence of life. Gotta appreciate what you enjoy while it’s happening. For me, right now, that’s blossoming trees. Trees. Covered with flowers. Is that not something right out of a fantasy? They last for such a short time, but they are amazing. We are lucky that our neighborhood is filled with these gems, so this time of year is magical for walks and bike rides.

This is Henry’s bus stop. They did some great runway walks down the Pink Carpet the other day.

We’ve had a lot going on of late, including a combined picnic/party for both the boys’ schools. Can you spot Henry in the Gaga Ball Pit? Hint: he’s wearing purple and is on the move.

Charlie covered every inch of the place.

This past weekend, we packed up and headed to Whitewater State Park in SE Minnesota. Henry was at the exhausting, nose-running stage of a cold, but was still the first one up both mornings.

The rest of us were pretty content to stay snuggled up until the temperatures crept up a bit higher.

Joe and Henry scoped things out right away, while Charlie and I did some reading by the fire. Henry was excited when we finally joined them.

We pushed their limits with our all together hike, but it was beautiful and well worth it.

There were a couple of places where you could choose which way to go around an obstacle. In this instance, Joe and Henry chose the…steep and rocky way.

Charlie and I preferred stair-stepping roots.

There were a lot of ledges with nice views, and Joe didn’t miss very many of them.

Where is he?!

Henry needed to get out there, too.

Peeking through the trees at me!

Joe and I each took separate walks exploring the park while the other chilled at the campsite with the boys. My walk took me to Inspiration Point.

Also to Chimney Rock

Our campsite was a cart-in site, so we were nicely isolated. On the path to our site was this tree. Charlie thought it looked like there was a sloth wrapped around the trunk.

There they are!

Water trickling past to the nearby river made for delightful sleeping noises.

On our drive home, we stopped at Carley State Park for the obvious reason. It was small, but quite charming.

Back home, Blue did some really good snuggling with Henry to help his cold feel better.

Last night, Charlie had his first cello performance, and it was a doozy! Every fifth-grader at his school was onstage at Northrup Auditorium at the University of Minnesota.

He was in the back row, so hard to see, but you can just see his head poking up in about the middle of the photo below.

He did great, and said that with the lighting, he felt like he was playing to an empty room with an applause track playing in between songs πŸ™‚

So proud!

The same day, Henry had Field Day, and it was some high energy sillies. He’s been training for this event for years.

Massive version of the egg-on-a-spoon race

Doing the squiggle scooter relay at the same time his teacher braved it!

The kid favorite is always the relay race where they have to wear their gym teacher’s clothes while running. By the end they’d added their own twist where two of them would wear the same articles of clothing at the same time, making it something like a three-legged-race.

So yeah, things are going swimmingly around here! It’s a great day to have a great day.

Fresh

Easter was so sweet this year, with the boys’ cousins finally old enough to hunt for eggs and with their brand new cousins just about to make their debuts.

The new fire pit area even got some use, because spring is simply taking forEVer to get here.

Found em!

Henry never passes up an opportunity to swing

He started a trend!

So sweet!

The next day, after a long time of consideration and conversation with my coworkers, my mentor and Joe, I finally let my building administration know that I would be leaving at the end of the quarter. I struggled coming to terms with not finishing the year, but as soon as I made the decision official, I felt an instant joy and relief.

My incredible team was supportive and even got a cake for my last day.

They’re very silly πŸ™‚

This choice has made me so happy! It’s not fun to come to terms with the career you chose being a bad fit, but every day is a new day. Wishing them away so you can stop feeling deep dread and anxiety for a while is not a good way to live.

Now I get to walk my son to school every morning and spend one-on-one time hearing what’s on his mind. (He’s the little black figure in the lower right. Not a great shot, but it was the first day I got to walk him, and after staring my return journey, I felt so grateful and happy that I just grabbed a pic to remember the moment).

I have the emotional energy and mental capacity to draw with Henry when he asks. We designed our own Minecraft characters the other day.

The timing also was pretty excellent, because both of Joe’s sisters went into labor my first day of not working!

We were able to provide some nice walks and play time to help the older siblings relax a bit. After basically growing up in quarantine, having their parents suddenly disappear for days was pretty tough to deal with.

In a combo effort of organizing what’s gotten away from me and self-reflection, I’ve been methodically going through our house and cleaning, sorting, and purging. Naturally, a bit of rearranging goes along with that. The biggest change so far was ditching the Lego table!

The new setup is a work-in-progress still, but now we have a seating arrangement that makes sense! I’ll show the full arrangement one day when it’s more set, but here’s a sneak preview. I took this picture after Joe brushed the boys’ hair with his new hairbrush. They ended up with some…interesting hairdos.

Henry’s been taking some classes at MITY (Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth), which has gotten us out and about earlier on Saturdays than we normally do. We ended up at Day-By-Day Cafe this past weekend after his classes. You gotta love a place that allows you to build jelly-cream towers!

I was able to meet the new babies, both boys, during the week, but Joe, Charlie and Henry got to meet them for the first time on Sunday.

Adorable Archie

Lovable Leo

Life is very good.

Door Explore

Last week was spring break for us, and it was lovely to get away and take the time to relax.

We drove up to Sister Bay, Wisconsin, which is in Door County. Since it was the off-season, we were lucky enough to have a spot right next to the lake.

It was crazy foggy when we arrived, so it was like living in a cloud, but Tuesday afternoon the fog cleared, so we hopped out onto the balcony to enjoy the view

…and to dive into a good Lego encyclopedia.

Our first excursion beyond Sister Bay itself was to Cana Island. There’s a lighthouse on the island, and while driving around the area happened upon the causeway that leads to the island itself. So we hopped on over.

The lighthouse was cool, but we were really drawn by the beach

So many good stones to throw

Wednesday, we took the ferry to Washington Island. The strait in between the peninsula and the island is called Death’s Door, and riding through icy waters in thick fog and wind, I can attest that the name would have been fitting for those in early sailing vessels.

Henry loved the rocking of the ferry

The ferry runs year round, so they had two heated passenger cabins, which was very nice.

Most everything on the island was closed, but we managed to find enough food and enjoyed exploring areas whether they were “open” or not.

Schoolhouse Beach

Percy Johnson Beach. Joe experimented with walking about the ice floes, which the boys found entertaining.

The Jacobsen Museum was closed, but their outdoor stuff, like the remains of this shipwreck, was open for anyone to check out.

Right before we hopped on the ferry back, we stopped in somewhere to see if we could find food. We did, but we also found Zoe, a sweet dog who spends her day hanging out at the bar. Literally.

Back in Sister Bay, the main building in the complex we stayed at had a pool/hot tub combo. We made full use of both!

One of the highlights of the trip for me was our hike in Peninsula State Park. We started with a great view from the lookout tower.

It was an accessible tower, which meant it had this amazing long ramp option to get to the top. Big fan! It was fun to climb the steep stairs, but Henry adores a good long ramp. He wanted to go back up and do it again.

The terrain and views on the hike that followed was super cool

The rocks were beautiful and had these fun hidey-holes

The boys helped me find good birch bark to bring home for weaving, so it was like a scavenger hunt with the built-in obstacle course of water, rocks and roots to navigate.

When we found the end of the trail, the boys were pooped, so Joe went to retrieve the car for us. Wisconsin State Parks have these built-in selfie stands for you to prop your phone on, so we took the opportunity to do some posing.

We had a truly enjoyable dinner after that at the Door County Brewing Co. after that, and then stopped in to play some mini golf.

It was closed for the season, but that didn’t stop us from doing a round. Here’s Joe gathering up some golf balls for us.

I found a stick that served as an okay putter.

This is the complication and joy of off-season vacationing. No one’s there, but because of that, you have everywhere to yourself!

The big downside to off-season was the lack of good food, so as we headed out of town on Friday, we sought out this smoothie place to nourish us on our 7-hour journey back home.

I’m glad to have had the weekend home before heading back to school. Now we’re all rested and ready to get back to reality…er, as ready as we’ll ever be.

Connect

Last weekend, the boys and I headed down to Des Moines for some Grandparent time. I spent most of it at the dining room table reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone aloud while Henry drew snakes, and Charlie constructed. Grandpa Steve got pretty into it, so Grandma Penny might have to find a copy to read the rest aloud to him and finish the story.

One of the mornings, we had poffertjes, and Grandma generously let Grandpa have a whole one to himself!

Saturday morning, cold though it was, we all walked up to Beaverdale. I wanted the bookstore and the coffee shop, and the boys wanted the candy store. Everybody won! Grandpa took this of us by a pretty mural that showed the weather we wished we were experiencing.

After a lunch at La Mie, they headed to the Science Center, and I walked home, stopping by a little record shop I’d never seen before. I found some winners!

That evening we hit Snookie’s for some ice cream, because, despite the cold, it was opening weekend! Gotta hit opening weekend when possible.

Sunday, there was a luncheon gathering for my uncle who’s moving back to the midwest. A great deal of the Sikkinks were there, which was really nice. It had been since Maine that these buds got to hang out, and they definitely made up for lost time.

The Lemonade War was a perfectly-lengthed audiobook that got us door-to-door from my grandparents’ house to our own back in Minneapolis. We were happy to see Joe again after his cabin weekend.

The strike was resolved, so on Monday I headed back into the building for the first time. I hung up in my classroom the Ella Baker artwork I’d made before we left.

It was an emotional re-immersion for the staff, but good to have Monday to prepare ourselves mentally and physically to get back to school life.

That evening I got some rejuvenation in the form of our friend, Hollis. Charlie just loves him. Henry, as you can see, was more ambivalent. He really liked playing with their dog, though!

The school week went really well, and even though my in-classroom sink was shut off on Tuesday, we’ve been working on clay. It’s been a fun adventure, and a good way to get back into the swing of things.

Thursday, the boys were giving Blue some love, and I ended up with this great series of pictures.

Blue’s claws tickled Henry’s legs through his sweatpants, and he just giggled and giggled!

This weekend, Joe was in Costa Rica meeting his new co-workers, so we had another weekend with just the three of us.

We decided an outing to the MN Zoo was in order.

It is cool to see how differently they experience this place now. They really take in the details and want to spend time observing, figuring, and wondering. The bats were a new discovery. We’d never, in my memory, actually looked at the bats, and this time we took probably 5 full minutes watching them.

They’re actually really cute! Charlie decided they are mini-chihuahua heads on furry pterodactyl bodies. Agreed.

Emma and Nora joined us after nap time, and she immediately wanted to get to the sharkies.

We never get to see the monk seals!

Nora was practically sprinting everywhere we went, so we made amazing time following her lead. With maybe only 15 minutes before closing, we made it to the sea otters, Grizzlies, and the leopard.

It is so good to be out in the world, breathing freer, and feeling lighter as the sun shines and gets us closer to spring. Day by day.

Day by Day

My workday looks pretty different these days. Minneapolis Public School teachers and Educational Support Personnel are currently on strike. Today was Day 12 (not counting weekends).

In the mornings, we meet at our own school site for picketing, dancing, and general visibility. Our school has created themes for each day, so I’ve shown up dressed as a unicorn, a baseball player, a gym-goer, mismatched, and tie-dyed. St. Patrick’s Day was an easy theme. Wear green!

Some days we meet up with nearby schools and do a joint picket at a prominent intersection. Last week we met up with Barton teachers at Lake & Hennepin, the heart of Uptown.

Afternoons, all sites meet at one location. Usually I hang with the boys during that time instead, but sometimes we all go to the afternoon meet together. The Capitol one, for instance, I thought would be a cool one for them to be a part of.

Tuesday last week was glorious weather, so in the afternoon we decided to wander Downtown for funsies. We ended up at Target Field, and thoroughly enjoyed their sunny plaza.

Kirby! Kirby!

Henry headed up the snow mountain

Charlie and I did separate experiments melting snow/ice chunks on the hot concrete and seeing where the drips flowed

Then we thought about melting them on the hot copper sculptures, and it was truly fascinating. Charlie, as per usual, heated up quickly in the sun.

That afternoon I enjoyed a happy hour with friends in St Paul. I am still in awe at how wonderful it feels to be able to get together with people in restaurants again.

Wednesday we hit the park.

The ice was halfway to melted in a lot of spots, so it made for some great slush/mud/water combos to stop through and mix up.

Clearly the middle of the field is the low point.

It got…um…really deep.

Snow boots were the wrong choice for Henry, since the lining just soaked up all the water.

He decided it would be better to just walk home barefoot. Oh, to be 8!

We had a milestone moment last week. During one of our before-bed reading sessions, both of our yoga balls sprung irreparable leaks. It was very weird timing, since one of them was like 5 years older than the other! I had bought the big one when Charlie was a baby, and our previous hand-me-down ball popped. Life without a ball is just not okay for Charlie, so I had to bring him with me, baby screams and all, to buy a replacement. Eleven years later, he made the same request of me. This time there was no crying, though πŸ™‚

Henry really liked the juxtaposition of himself on the new big ball, and Charlie on the new little ball.

Thursday we hit the Mill City Museum, which had been closed for a looooong time due to the pandemic. They were so happy to be back, and it did not disappoint. The water room is the favorite. You can see them both in this next pic, Charlie in the foreground, and Henry in the blue hoodie behind him, figuring something out with another random blondie.

We love the old commercials

After a few weeks of Family Dinner at our house, it was fun to be back in Little Canada. Nora re-discovered the sandbox

Uncle Joe always comes up with unique ideas for fun, and kids love him.

I got up from the dinner table at one point, and what I saw filled my heart with joy. She just loves Cha-chi.

He’s getting so big!

I spent this past weekend in Grand Marais, hanging out with Jalene and her daughter.

They live right in town, so we took a nice little walk to enjoy the puddles and grab some lunch at the Angry Trout.

It was delightful all around!

The view out the window of the restaurant

I got to do puzzles, play games–mostly Guess Who (she always chose one of the four girl characters), and read books. She’s almost 4, and it’s such a cool age.

Tina hosted a taco party that Sunday, which I thought I was going to miss since I was out of town. But the party kept on going through the beautiful sunny day, so I arrived back in the Cities to find a backyard of friends to hang out with!

Including my friend who’s real new in town!

This week has been colder and rainier/snowier, so we’ve been doing a lot of Legos in the afternoons, which is restorative and joyful for both the boys and me.

Still, I look forward to more sunshine soon!

Finding the Good

A few weekends ago, we went up north with some friends to soak up the rejuvenating effects of being by Lake Superior.

We got there midday Friday, and after hours in the car were excited to get out into the snow.

It was super cold and windy, but when there are mountains of snow to play on, you just have to bust into your creativity and take advantage.

This dude would have no problem if you told him he could never go inside again. He just thrives on fresh air, and seems to literally envelope himself in the Earth–whether it’s sand, dirt or snow.

Charlie, meanwhile, is very in touch with the temperature of his toes. I can relate! Inside, we played with a Google feature we were not previously aware of. We were looking up some important information regarding the ankylosaurus, and discovered we could see what one would look like in our space (though, as you can see, we had not chosen to have it be “actual size” yet. Here’s a screenshot of Charlie and the dinosaur.

Saturday we hit Gooseberry Falls State Park for some cross-country skiing. Here’s our 6-person crew

Joe and Charlie

Naturally, Henry couldn’t resist the snow mountains by the parking lot, so while Joe and Phil did a loop on their skate skis, Emily and I hung with the boys on the snow piles.

Here’s the view from our cabin. Friday night we could hear the ice breaking up and floating away, and Saturday the ice was all gone from the lake. So crazy!

Deer-watching

The week after that dragged by. Only Family Dinner on Thursday kept me going. We hosted, and it was such a joy to see my niece and nephew playing at our house. The pandemic really robbed us of the opportunity to hang out in each others’ homes. It made me happy that they didn’t want to leave at the end of the night!

Last weekend, Joe won a lottery for tickets to the MN United season opener. Sadly, it was both very cold and raining. Not exactly ideal for an open-air stadium, but we still enjoyed the adventure.

I hadn’t watched soccer in a long time, and I surprised myself at how vocal it made me. I wanted to comment on everything, and to yell at players what I would say to them if I were on the field. I guess I understand people who follow sports better than I thought I did.

Our church finally opened back up for in-person Sunday school a few weeks ago–their first in-person service was this past weekend. I’m one of the 2nd grade teachers, so Henry and I are together. The room we’re in this year has play equipment in it, so often afterward we’ll just stay and play after everyone else is gone. Charlie was in this classroom for 3rd grade when the pandemic hit, and he was noticing on Sunday how much he’s grown in two years. He was even able to touch his nose to the ceiling!

Tall boys

Oh yes, and here’s Henry trapped in the dungeon. I was the Queen, and he was my prisoner who kept escaping. I had to keep chasing him down. It was very frustrating.

After Monday, Minneapolis teachers went on strike. It’s been a cold week to be out on the picket line, but on Wednesday some of my work friends and I realized that dancing keeps us more pumped up than chanting. Here we are (I took the photo, so I’m not in it) really getting into some ABBA!

In the mornings, we picket at our own schools, and in the afternoon have been district-wide gatherings. I brought the boys to the one at the Capitol, and Charlie was recognized before any of the rest of us! His math teacher from last year saw him and thanked him for coming out. Pretty cool.

Yesterday, the boys and I took the weird and rare opportunity that this strike has provided to spend the afternoon at the pool! It was a long drive out to Chaska, but it was worth it to feel like we were in Wonderland without a care in the world.

Today was brutally cold, so the morning picket was pretty demoralizing. Coming back to my warm home where Joe made me avocado toast with egg was buoying. I spent the afternoon playing board games, and am feeling back in good spirits, especially since it’s Friday. I can’t wait to sleep in tomorrow and NOT leave the house–except maybe to go to yoga πŸ™‚

Showing Up

Starting a new semester was exciting. A fresh start! Students for whom I won’t be their third art teacher of the year. I can set things up the way I want to.

I forgot how exhausting it is to start with new students. So many names to learn, quirks to figure out, dynamics to assess, and expectations to clarify and enforce. I was working hard to build a positive class culture. It worked really well with some of my classes, but when you see six totally different groups of students in different age groups, there’s no magic formula. A couple periods started off in shambles, and I felt a lot of despair about that. I spent a few weeks waking up in fear and frequently walking home in tears. But I did it. I kept showing up, kept smiling, kept repeating what was important, and kept my cool (mostly). I stayed reflective, and had some great exploratory conversations with my school mentor. Now (knock on wood!), things are going a lot better, and we’re on a pretty good path toward the rest of the school year.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Watching the boys do gymnastics is inspiring for me. One, it’s just fun to see them out there flipping around, but it also reminds me that what I value in others is not that they are naturally talented. I value their effort, persistence, and ability to enjoy things that they have not mastered. It makes me happy to see all the kids with different abilities out there trying, falling, and getting back up.

I want to be more like them.

One tricky variable is that you can never quite know what things will be hard. Henry and Joe had a dickens of a time trying to knock this dice tower over using air!

Friends of ours had a baby recently, and they seem to be dealing with the newborn stage amazingly. Something that did end up being a challenge for them was figuring out diapering. They wanted to do cloth diapers, but were feeling confused and not having great success. Since that’s something I have expertise in and a passion for, I was able to give them a lesson. AND I got to hang out with their baby in the meantime. Look at this beautiful child!

A friend from grad school informed a few of us Art Teacher Moms that she now has an outdoor Jacuzzi. This was very exciting news to all involved, so this past week we enjoyed a snowy hot-tub time while swapping stories from our classrooms. It was so therapeutic, mentally and physically. She lives right by the Witch’s Hat Tower, so I got some nighttime shots.

The view of Downtown Minne from the hill.

My parents came up for a visit this weekend, which was wonderfully planned. I just really needed some time with my Mommy and Daddy, and the boys had so much they wanted to show them.

We all now look fresh, too. Thanks, Mom!

Sunday was in the 40s, so we definitely wanted to get out into the sunshine. Lunch at Heather’s was a lovely start.

Then we headed to Coldwater Spring.

Hennie found water!

The woods near the dog park were filled with lots of squeals of, “Mom! Look!”

Henry found a 203-year-old wall to climb up to.

So nice to be together

Getting Out There

Did we have a miserable time during quarantine? No, absolutely not. In fact, in some ways it was nicer than usual, because I just got to do the things that make me feel happy and alive: hang around my family, do house maintenance, and make art.

Did e-learning and not being able to be with others, even at the grocery store suck? Yes. Yes, it did. Postponing an already late Christmas gathering, and missing out on a visit from my grandparents were definite bummers.

There are always upsides and downsides. Another upside, was that once we were safe to be around again, getting back out into the world felt especially sweet.

Family Dinner always brings me deep joy, but we all appreciated it a lot more last week!

Last weekend, we went to French Park and rented some cross-country skis. We split up pretty much immediately, so no group shots, and none of Joe or Charlie at all. But Henry and I ended our ski by heading down to the lake, and he loooved the quick, steep slope to get down there.

He just went up and down, up and down. Lots of falls trying to get up the steepness, but he was so happy.

After our rental skis were due back, the boys and I played on a snow mountain, while Joe took some laps on his own.

Hot tea really hit the spot

The next day, we checked out the Winter Carnival snow sculptures at the Fairgrounds.

The Vulcans had a hot air balloon burner they’d take your photo under. We didn’t, but the heat felt nice nearby.

My personal favorite

Check out this vehicle! It’s like one of Henry’s drawings come to life.

Afterward, we played some shuffleboard at Spitz while waiting for our dΓΆners.

I picked up a book at the library called, Make It Mighty Ugly, about working through creative insecurities. I thought it might give me some good ideas for my middle school students who are embarrassed by their work, and scared to try. It’s turned out, however, to also just be great for me! I’m not much of a perfectionist, and don’t have much trouble diving into project, even if I think it might not turn out. But it’s still been a really helpful and interesting way to examine some of the creative demons that do haunt me. One of the exercises the author has you do is to take 3 photos every day for a week. Of anything. They can be pretty, ugly, good, bad, doesn’t matter.

Clearly, I take a lot of photos anyway, but I decided to try taking some of things I wouldn’t normally save and share. Henry actually asked me to take this one. His lava lamp was warming up, and he thought it looked like a face. I’m not sure I see the face, but it does look very cool.

Turns out, the time of day I’m most inspired to photograph is my commute to school.

I don’t always take the same bus route, but I usually take the 23. I walk north to 38th Street. If I can’t see the bus coming by the co-op, then I often end up crossing 35W, walking toward Nicollet.

I like the stop at Nicollet, because there’s a bench, and if it seems like the 23 isn’t coming on time, I can cross the street, and grab an 18 out front of the Ace.

There’s a retired guy named Rick on my bus, who greets every single person who gets on. At first, I thought I was going to be annoyed by that, but it’s actually really pleasant. He talks to the driver, and now me, and tells us where he’s headed for breakfast that day, or chats about whatever’s in the news.

I used to get off at the Uptown Transit Station and walk along bustling Hennepin, but I’ve been liking getting off at Fremont instead, by the Cub Foods, and then walking the neighborhood streets.

I like crossing over the Greenway, our bike highway.

On my way home, though, I do head to the Transit Station, but still through the neighborhood. After a day of interacting with 100 middle schoolers, I crave some solitude and calm.

3 blocks later, I’m usually feeling ready to re-engage with the world, and anxious to get home. Yesterday, my bus driver was chatty, and told me about his various teachers over the years, including a great art teacher and some scary nuns. It felt wonderful to talk to someone, instead of just sitting in silence, and made the journey fly by.

I really enjoy those parts of my day, even when it’s below zero. Walking is something I love, and it feels nice to let someone else do the driving for me. The combination is perfect: a good bit of time automatically carved out of my day for reflection and peace.

This past Thursday, we FINALLY were able to celebrate Christmas with the Novaks. It was a beautiful whirlwind, so I have no documentation of it. But I do have this little nugget of happiness. Charlie and Nora are just best buds.

As soon as we walk through the door, she comes running to hug Chachi!