A Lot

Life is just a lot these days. I’m now steeped in the new job mode where everyday I learn about some new system that I was supposed to be implementing all along.

So it’s wonderful to enjoy those parts of my life where I feel helpful and capable instead of the fumbling newbie. Helping get my neighbor, Dale, to bed every Thursday has been a wonderful lifeline during COVID. It’s nice to have a weekly, guaranteed, in-person chat with someone I know well but who doesn’t live in my house.

Another lifeline has been, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, STATE PARKS! We had a long weekend recently, so we loaded up the car and headed to Minneopa State Park near Mankato.

There was an idling train there at the beginning of our walk, and we had to finally convince Henry we couldn’t keep waiting for it to leave or we’d never get our hike in. He was verrrry displeased by that, but luckily, it was just taking off as we ended our hike. How fortuitous!

Then we headed across the road to the other part of the park, which was a bison enclosure. On our first pass, we saw nothing. There was another path that took you up to an old mill, so we figured we may as well investigate. Turned out…that’s where you were able to see the bison anyway!

Afterward, we had a lovely dinner in downtown Mankato.

The next day was New Ulm! A monument we’d hoped to climb and a playground we’ve enjoyed in the past were both closed for “construction.” So, we found a different park to entertain us.

It was suuuper chilly that morning, so eventually I had to move on. I made it my mission to find us lunch in town. I found an adorable place called Lola, with wonderful food and an outdoor patio in a cool old alley. It was a cold lunch experience, but the food was definitely worth it.

On our way to the Schell’s Brewery, we hit a dead-end by accident. It turned out to be a happy accident, because we found a back entrance to another state park: Flandreau. It was a gorgeous trail along a hillside, complete with trees to climb, great views and a log bridge to tackle.

And then we headed to Schell’s. The brewery tour wasn’t happening, because of COVID, but you could still check out the grounds, and they had a biergarten set up, complete with poppy German music playing!

That last picture was Henry playing in the little stream that flows down their hill. He ended up kind of falling in an getting soaking wet. Not ideal on a cold day, but luckily we had a trunk full of clothes.

Then we found a great wooden playground with this silly photo opp.

What’s this? Another New Ulm sight?

No! It’s Henry waiting to get into a trick-or-treating event at Living History Farms in Des Moines!

This was last weekend.

We got to do a wagon ride and everything! It felt so autumnal.

Would that not make an AMAZING haunted house?! Maybe someday.

After the wagon ride, we listened to some stories being told in the barn. It was pretty hard to hear, so we had fun later trying to piece together what each of us had picked up from the tale.

And then there were lawn games!

I loved this broom guy, and think the building behind it is just SO cool. Turns out it used to be on the main street of Polk City! Fun, huh?

So yes, we’ve put a lot of miles on our car lately. Luckily, we’ve been enjoying excellent audiobooks (the Magnus Chase series), and the boys claim to love long drives. Certainly seems so!

Get After That Light!

Is it not glorious out right now?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always nice to be next to the Mississippi River

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

“Can you sign your name?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go on!

Every day is a big experiment.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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