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.


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.


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


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.


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.


Downtown Minneapolis


We went from one Hideaway to another!


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.


A unicyclist!


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


Approaching the Stone Arch Bridge


It gives a good view of the falls


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.


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


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.


Hennepin Avenue Bridge


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.


A train driving over the river


Climbing up to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge


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…


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.




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


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.


Caden smiling with his daddy and grandma on the way


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


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.


They bring extra fun!


Charlie behind the wheel


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.


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!


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.


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


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?


This summer is so weird, that’s all I’m going to say. Often over the fourth of July weekend, we go to the Novaks’ cabin. This year, it was a touch-and-go decision to say the least. But in the end, we decided to make it work. Our answer was to sleep in the shed!


That makes it sound bad, but it was actually very pleasant. The only negative was that air mattresses are just not great. It was totally worth it to get to spend actual time around people we love. We got to swim, chat, laugh with the babies and play games.


They rented a pontoon for the weekend, so we were even able to get out on the water social-distance-style!

Luke’s first boat ride!


The boys were SO happy to be on the lake. I think Charlie would have stayed out all day if that had been an option.

And Henry stayed posted up front for the most part. I think it made him feel like he was a figurehead on the front of a ship.


Back at the ranch, Henry insisted a constant fire be going. It’s his thing, and he takes it very seriously.

Don’t worry, he had plenty of assistance.

Back on the boat for an evening cruise.


Malts and root beer floats were post-dinner delights!

The temperatures were…quite high, so there wasn’t a lot of physical activity going on. But how nice to just sit around and relax.

The hammock was the favorite for the boys. They were constantly begging to be pushed in it so they could pretend they were in a spaceship rocketing through space.

And we all loved getting to be around the babies! They are at such a fun age where they’re still teeeeeny-weeny, but they’re starting to really show their personalities.

We kept our stay short, so after just one night, we headed back to the cities. Unfortunately, that was the night of the Fourth. I forget every year just how much I hate the fourth of July, especially in the city. This year was unusually frustrating, because with no big fireworks happening, everyone in the metro area seems to have done their own. The barrage of explosions was constant and all over the place all night. Ugh. I imagine I was not a very pleasant person to be around the next day.

But once I recovered and did some yoga, the fun resumed.

Yesterday, we baked some sugar cookies.img_20200706_1602486392960087147477847.jpg

I think the results speak for themselves:


Happy July Seventh everyone!