Birthdays 2022

Happy 12th Birthday to Charlie!

We celebrated Grandma Helen’s birthday at a Roseville Parks building with extended family. Charlie, as always, was very happy to be with the babies.

Enjoying a tea egg at a ramen restaurant in north Minneapolis.

Charlie had very specific food requests for his birthday, and we hit them all. Here he is enjoying My Burger for lunch. We decided to explore a new location out in Wayzata.

Unluckily/luckily, our rusted-through axle broke while we were out there. I say luckily, because it happened before we made the 4 hour drive to Iowa on Thanksgiving Day. It was startling and scary, but we all stayed safe and sound.

Then we got to see the Honda from below!

We were thoroughly cheered up by pizza and dessert with family that night!

Jim graciously insisted we use his truck on our drive down to Des Moines, so we were still able to get in our holiday time with the Iowa folks.

Friday, Joe and I enjoyed a morning with friends, and then got free tarts at La Mie at lunch, which is unheard of. They were very good.

Charlie had a great time with his present. If you think it looks simple, just ask to see it sometime!

As is so often the case, the weather was amazing for us while we were there.

Henry led us in some balance practice

Joe found himself upside down in multiple places

Henry got a little overzealous running to catch up with Joe on our way home, so he fell and hurt his knee. Here Joe is helping with one of his magical healing rituals.

Saturday, we had a second Thanksgiving gathering, this time with Mom’s side of the family in Pella. After our soccer-ball pool game up North, I know the boys were pumped to get to play with a real pool table.

Henry got to show his latest sketchbook to a fresh audience

It was a gorgeous day, and Lori lives so close to Big Rock Park. So we took a walk.

It was pretty satisfying to revisit the Big Rock. Somehow my feet just remembered all of its contours from when I would come here as a kid.

My little buddy for the day.

When we got back home on Sunday, it was party time for Henry and his pals.

They ended up outside manufacturing mud in the sandbox.

Monday was his actual birthday. Happy 9th Birthday, Henry!

This one was tough for me. I remember feeling this way about Charlie’s 10th. It’s the BEST to get to experience him growing up…but he’s my baby

It suddenly feels like we’ve come a long way from the littles stage.

Today is Joe’s birthday, so he’s off on another epic walk in the snow! Happy 36th, Joe!

Play Time

I’ve been feeling like a kid these days.

I’m reading like 9 books already, but that doesn’t stop me from continuing to open new ones. There’s so much to read! So much to learn! So many stories to experience!

I also did an online sketching retreat last week, which has made me want to always. be. drawing. I learned some new techniques…

…practiced some old ones…

…and even got brave enough to try digital art. I’ve been pretty resistant to involving technology in my art, but I’m trying hard to be open to new things and not to let fear get in the way of my choices. So I downloaded the app and bought myself a stylus. It’s been a great experience! Not because it’s going well in terms of results, but because it’s good to be a beginner. It’s frustrating and satisfying and challenging all at the same time. One day maybe I’ll show you something I make digitally.

Friday, I was happy to facilitate some non-digital art at Henry’s school. I ran the Make-Your-Own-Comic table at their Readathon Celebration, and it was a lot of fun. Henry and his pals were comic-making machines!

Right after that, I headed over to Wisconsin to meet up with friends.

We rented a cabin for a long weekend, where 20 of us spent the days eating, laughing, eating, singing, and eating. Here’s Zac’s amazing ‘Lebanese Dream’ spread he made for us for dinner.

The hit of the weekend was the player piano. It was like doing old-timey karaoke. Jon has actual piano skills, so when there wasn’t a scroll for the song we wanted to sing, he would look up the chords and play it on the fly so we could keep belting out tunes.

The boys spent the weekend with the Novaks, where Blue apparently got a lot of attention.

Henry can’t believe Blue would make that move!

We headed right to Family Dinner on our way home, which was the perfect way to get back into real life.

Charlie taught Archie how to play Legos baby-style.

Nothing like lounging with cousins.

This week we finally got snow. It threw me for a loop Monday morning, because I hadn’t wrangled our gear yet. But we made it happen. Henry has come home the last two days, dropped off his backpack and headed right back out into the snow.

It was great packing snow on Tuesday, and yesterday it was good for making snow-splosions

There was a half hour til my dinner would be done baking, so we headed to the park. Here I am crouched behind my snow wall while I stockpiled snowballs for our fight. It got dark really quickly between these two photos! I even increased the brightness on the one below. But they were both taken around 4:30. I guess that’s when it starts getting dark these days.

All the more reason to keep lightness in your mood. Happy Thursday!

What’s New?

How wonderful it is to see a place you know well with someone new.

Bringing Grandpa Jim to the Zoo was like seeing it for the first time. He took time to read all of the signs and placards that I’ve long since stopped even noticing. It was quite refreshing!

It was also just good fun!

We went somewhere new ourselves over MEA (Fall Break). In a last minute spontaneous decision, we ended up at a resort hotel on Gull Lake–just north of Brainerd.

There was an indoor pool, don’t worry. We weren’t swimming in the lake in October. Although the weather was gorgeous.

A nearby resort had a huge lawn of games.

We enjoyed multiple games of soccer pool.

Joe got a little acrobatic

We found a beautiful spot on a peninsula and just basked in the sun for awhile, Charlie and I on a porch-style swing, and these guys down by the water.

The resort had several styles of water craft to try out.

Did I mention the weather was wonderful?

There is nothing like watching the sun slowly rise over an expanse of water.

On our drive back home, we stopped by the area Joe grew up going to, when his parents’ cabin was there.

We also checked out Mille Lacs Kathio State Park to climb the old fire tower and take a walk in the woods.

The view! The darker blue bit on the horizon is Lake Mille Lacs

We took a group selfie at the top of the tower before another kind tourist offered to take a photo for us.

The weekend of Halloween, we finally made it to the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular at the Zoo.

My little Hogwarts students! The robes were my first attempts to sew from a pattern since the days when I was making cloth diaper covers. I think they turned out quite well.

The light made photos hard, but this appropriately captures the energy and mood of our adventure. It was so cool!

It started with lone jack-o-lanterns on pedestals, then expanded upwards into the trees.

The carvings and lights got more intricate, and there were different themes for each stretch of the walk.

Before you knew it, you were wandering through a sea of lit pumpkins.

Sarah and I wanted to get some use out of our costumes, so we met up on Saturday. I dressed up as Luna Lovegood with a blonde wig and Ravenclaw Hogwarts robes, but…the effect was more Lucius Malfoy.

Jake asked if I was Hogwarts Daenerys. So for trick-or-treating, I ditched the wig and the accessories (that the wig hid anyway). I should have made myself a Hufflepuff robe after all, but oh well. I do think blue is prettier than yellow.

Joe always gets left out of the Halloween and trick-or-treating photos, since he documents us in our costumes, but he’s always there!

Hope you had a happy Halloween!

Coolness

A few weekends ago, we drove to Spring Green, Wisconsin for a delightful farm wedding. As we were going through La Crosse, Henry noticed a sign for a car museum. We had some wiggle room in terms of time, so we made a stop.

It was a great find. Look how short this de Tomaso is!

The wedding site was so lovely.

The boys and I set up our tent to sleep in that night, but without Joe’s expert guidance, since he was taking care of other things. We may not have done everything 100% correct, because when it downpoured later for hours, we no longer had a dry tent. Eep!

On the drive home the next day, we stopped in the Wisconsin Dells to experience one of their indoor water parks. It was fun, except for the slide I went down that was labeled ‘Extreme!’ My neck got angry with me and refused to move for several days after.

There was an indoor amusement park attached, and we enjoyed a nighttime Ferris wheel ride.

The following week, Joe was in NYC for work, so the boys and I did our own thing. By Friday, I was craving some grown-up company, so I hosted a bonfire for a few friends. I’m proud of my recently-acquired ability to build a fire, so it was fun to practice and have roaring success.

All I usually have to do is start the fire, though, because Henry is more than happy to keep it stoked.

We got on the topic of Harry Potter at one point, so he busted out the wizard robes I sewed for him.

It’s the first time I’ve had success sewing from a pattern, so I have kept going. By Halloween, three of us will be wearing Carlye-made Hogwarts robes.

Saturday seemed like a good day for an orchard, and I get excited about corn mazes. So we did both.

Everyone else in Minnesota ALSO showed up, so we ended up not getting any apples, because the line was too long. Still, it was great to be out enjoying a beautiful day.

Also, there were tractors, and we love tractors.

By the time Joe came back to town, the colors had really popped.

We were happy to have him back. A week’s a long time!

Something else we like is that Target now sells gingerbread-style house kits for other holidays. Here’s our Monster Motel!

This past week included both snow AND 80-degrees. The fluctuation is a bit hard to keep up with, but I certainly took advantage of that last blast of heat for the year.

Even on the cold days, I have my heated yoga studio to warm up in. This week I showed up for my 500th in person class there.

Yesterday, there was a Harvest Party at the Y-Camp the boys go to in the summer. It was fun to see the place they go. Henry did so much archery that his arms started shaking.

They both got to try something new.

Henry got to try the climbing wall

Charlie got to zipline off the top of the tower over the lake.

Hooray for fall!!!

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 🙂

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 🙂

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.