Warmth

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.

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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!

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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.

Swimmin’!

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.

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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:

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Happy July Seventh everyone!

What’s up

What’s been going on around here this week? Well, I had my last week of class. Finally! Now I’m actually really truly done and graduated. This was just a wrap-up course, so not a big stressor, but I still had to be on Zoom every day for an hour and a half. I would do class out on the back patio, which was the most pleasant way to do a digital course. The boys usually followed me out there and entertained themselves.

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One of the days, Henry sat on my lap for the whole hour and a half. He kept hugging and kissing me, which was delightful. Best class ever. He wanted to hear my classmate’s response to what I’d made for a observation tower design project we’d been assigned the day before. Here it is, haha!

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I took this next picture, because I love the colorful soap at the car wash. It makes me very happy to watch the colors drip and mix on their way down the windows and windshield. So I thought I’d share my joy with you.

I often get my school/work things done on the weekends, since I’m on boy duty during the weekdays. So on Saturdays, Joe tends to scoop the boys up and take them somewhere beautiful to hike. Today it must have been somewhere quite muddy, since Henry came home with his hands like this:

 

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Last weekend, while I celebrated my cousin’s baby shower digitally, the boys headed to this gorgeous spot.

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It rained that day, but that didn’t keep them from exploring.

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I was the one escorting them to this next beautiful place. We had walked to school to pick up their yearbooks, and then continued on to grab sandwiches on the go. This pretty pond is on our walk back home.

 

We love the bird sounds around it.

We also found tiny toads. The boys will show you just how tiny:

And now I’ll show you for real:

Joy of joys, in the endless rebuilding process of our interstate, they are currently working on the stretch right out front of our house. This makes for lots of house shaking and nighttime beeping, buuuut…we got to watch some mesmerizing work up close.

The view south

The view north.

We walked up to the next two bridges north to see if there were other interesting views, but the best stuff was happening right under our own. When we got back, the view south was fully clear of asphalt. It’s amazing how fast it goes, even though it feels slow while you watch (or are waiting for your entrance to re-open!).

And now, for something big….

I wore these pretty earrings the other day. They were made by my best friend out in California, and when she gave them to me, she said they were perfect for an art teacher.

I wore them in my job interview this week, and they must have made me look the part. I got the job! I’ll be teaching art in the fall at a middle school in New Brighton, a suburb north of the Twin Cities. Hooray!

 

 

Play

It has been a glorious seven days.

We got to have backyard funtimes at the Novaks’, which included some seriously social distanced frisbee from porch to yard below.

Then on Friday, the boys and I enjoyed a day at the beach in Clear Lake. I actually love that the pandemic has encouraged all of life to be outdoors!

Eating ice cream outdoors is the best way anyway. Check out this beautiful raspberry-vanilla twist cone!

Unfortunately, there was a guy fixing the air conditioner right behind us, so there were some pretty loud, awful noises that happened. Here’s Henry trying to plug both ears while holding a cone.

It made for some drippiness, but when you’re in a suit all day, who cares?!

Before hitting the highway to head home, we hit the Iowa Trolley Park.

It was not at all what we expected (trolley-themed playground), but ended up being a pretty cool experience.

There is a circular railroad track that this diesel engine tools around. The boys were even able to operate the train while it was running. It was super loud, so that was the big negative of the trip, but you can’t exactly mute a train!

In addition to getting to control the speed of the train, they learned how to switch track points, and each got to do it themselves.

But all of that was pretty overwhelming with the size and noise. When it was shut down, though, and the hand-car came out…THAT was when the boys got amped up and loved pumping that thing down the rails.

Charlie then had a million questions about all of the crazy contraptions and old machinery around the place, so the man running the place got to share his passion and knowledge with someone truly interested. I think he had as much fun as Charlie. Here’s an old streetcar that was there.

Normally he wouldn’t let people go in, but we promised we’d be careful!

Saturday, two of our friends were scheduled to run the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth. Obviously marathons aren’t happening right now, but they kept up with their training and created their own route around town. Friends provided water stops for them, us included. Here’s one of them back on his way again! They both finished at or before the times they were hoping for.

Once they were both past us at mile 17, we were free to roam the creek as we pleased. Joe looks like he’s explaining how something works.

We were curious if we could reach all the way around this tree holding hands.

We weren’t even close! It was way too big.

Under the interstate

We tend to linger in this nice spot, because it has sand, water access and logs to climb over.

That day we took it to another level, actually getting in the creek. Luckily, I still had stuff packed from our Clear Lake trip that we never used, so we were able to change and enjoy.

It felt delightful, and the boys immediately started telling a collaborative story in which they were mining the sand to create alternative fuels. Then I would test the fuels in my imaginary car and tell them how it ran.

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Eventually, I just plunked down and started playing with the mud myself. It was delightful.

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It’s summertime

The last day of school for MPS was last Friday. Here’s Charlie at his last class meeting of the school year. You’ll notice Henry is right there. He was paying close attention to most of Charlie’s schoolwork, and loved his class meetings. So however first and second grade go for him…he’ll know exactly what’s going on when he gets to third! He already really hopes he gets Mr. Collier, and I can see why.

So now that distance-learning is done for awhile…what will we do with our days?! We started with a fun painting project from my mom.

We got an internet ‘booster’ early on during quarantine, so our wifi now reaches the backyard with ease. That meant we were able to jam out to some sweet tunes while we worked.

Remnants of one of Henry’s mustaches

Here’s how they turned out!

The boys hand-picked their locations. They are both gracing different parts of our front yard…actually the two spots that our mailman is certain to see, so I hope they bring a bright moment to his route. We didn’t get mail last week, because the post office was burned down, so it was actually really exciting when we heard that first clank!

And speaking of exciting, it feels like real positive change is happening in the world. Take time today to really listen to someone you may not know much about. We’re all humans who require love and respect to thrive. So let’s spread that love and respect around!

I’ve been really missing my weekly dates with the boys at Royal Grounds coffee shop–so much so that you may remember awhile back I made a mini model of the place. On Saturday, we walked over and enjoyed some of their coffee and delightful homemade goodies.

In this kind of weather, we probably would have enjoyed our treats on the benches outside anyway, so it didn’t feel too strange not to hang out inside. I was pleased that I got to see the owners, and that they recognized me despite my mask!
“Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your naaaaame!”

It was my neighbor’s 90th birthday that day (!!!!), so on our way back, we stopped in with our cards to wish her a wonderful day. She shared some photographs from her youth. I’d seen them many times, but she knew the boys hadn’t, so she got a chance to share her stories with a fresh audience.

I also got to walk with two of my friends in Battle Creek park this weekend. This discovery that COVID is pretty much only passed through the air has made life in slightly closer proximity to others more feasible. Never have I loved walks so much as right now! And let me tell you…I have always LOVED walks.

The lack of library access has changed a lot for us. Everyone in our house is a voracious reader, and library visits were some of the most anticipated events in our lives pre-COVID. Digital library loans have been incredibly helpful, as has my longtime Kindle usage–so much so that we have multiple of them. Charlie’s teacher also hooked us up with access to EPIC, which is a digital library for schools. Kids don’t have to check out books from it, they just have 24/7 access to everything in the library. Now that the schoolyear’s over, I don’t know how much longer we’ll have it, but it has been a game-changer.

Here we are enjoying some early morning cool in the backyard, all three of us on our digital devices reading (Henry drawing while EPIC reads his book aloud for him). The screen time would have made me cringe just 3 months ago, but now I consider this scene one of delight. What a world!

My final grad school class (just a wrap up so I can get my Master’s as well as my license and certification) started Wednesday, so before my mornings got booked, we fit in a nice long Minnehaha Creek walk. Had to pet the bunny sculpture along the way.

The best. Henry loves when he gets to clamber, and Charlie loves being right along the water and enveloped in trees. Nailed it!

If not for the mosquitoes, we would have been at this spot for hours.

Apparently Henry loves ducks as much as I do.

Last night we started a game of Monopoly and finished it up this morning. With emotions running higher than usual and more board games being played, the boys are learning more about how starkly different it feels when you’re winning versus losing. I even felt it myself when Charlie and I tried to learn the game of GO together. It’s been a good way to frame discussions about mindset and empathy.

And finally, the big thing around our house the past few weeks has been CARS. Especially Pixar Cars, since we’ve been watching the movies for…I kid you not..the first time. These boys have an encyclopedic knowledge of the cars’ names and traits, but they’d never actually watched any of the movies. We started with the second one, then watched the first and today watched number three. Don’t know why, that’s just how it happened.  But now they’re allllll about it, and their toy versions are now found everywhere.

Including here on the kitchen counter. This must have been a crazy race.

May’s End

The irises bloomed at the same time as all of the unrest last week.

It led to a lovely exchange with a man passing by my front yard as I weeded. We shared grateful smiles and ‘hellos,’ and he expressed astonishment at their beauty. We admired their petals together, and shared a nice moment of communal joy.

I saw one final tulip on our walk home from 38th & Chicago on Wednesday evening.

It’s always nice to arrive home, but especially in spring.

Mooooore cupcakes in process!

Henry asked me to take a picture of this piece of charcoal.

On Friday, the people who help our neighbor Donna out weren’t too excited about coming to south Minneapolis, what with all the chaos. The night before had been bad, in terms of destruction. Joe was out doing cleanup work on Lake Street, so the boys and I all headed next door to give her a hand!

She was very happy to have some young energy enter the house after her sleepless night.

She even gave us some beautiful peonies and sugar cookies for our time. Not necessary, but SO appreciated!

We had some leftover homemade frosting from the cupcakes, so we figured it would go perfectly on the cookies. It did.

I put the peonies in my little nook. I’ve been loving having a corner of my own for readin’ and writin.’

We left that afternoon for Little Canada for the night. We were getting notices from the city and various organizations that outsiders were infiltrating the city, etc. When Minneapolis recommended chaining up and hosing down the insides of garbage cans and putting inside anything that could be used for arson or breaking windows…I figured it was probably not the place for my children to sleep for the night. I hastily packed a suitcase, took pictures of every room in the house in case they turned to ashes, grabbed our most important papers and drove up to pick up Joe from his cleanup duties. Since we had a safe place to go, we went.

I still didn’t sleep well, but it was nice to just lie in bed and know my family was safe. We did a pop-up walk with the Novaks the next day, and it felt wonderful to be surrounded by people I love.

The protests continue, and I am in support of them. The voices being raised have been speaking for a long time, but were still not being heard. Now maybe we can all better listen. Now the message is being embodied in so many places and in so many ways, not just on my side of my city. It does seem that some of the immediate, pent-up, local fury has been released. I won’t pretend I wasn’t hesitant to come home for the next night, but we are here, and here we stay. I can only say that I am hugely privileged in this world that I experienced fear like this for a few days. Too many people experience it every day, nearly everywhere they go.

There is nothing like coming home to make you appreciate it, even if it’s only for a night. Everything about home makes me glad to be here.

Our backyard is way up there on the list, though.

It’s good for everything from soaking up the sunshine splashing in the hose to drawing, reading, and even experimenting with remote controlled cars.

Can you see the mustache? He stamped one on himself for the day.

We walked through M.L. King Park today on our walk to find some lunch. Henry was admiring the mosaics, which we don’t often stop to enjoy.

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Our intended lunch spot is apparently closed down for awhile. It’s a little hard to tell these days who’s open and who’s not. A few of these businesses make it clear they are, despite the plywood. Boludo, where we were hoping to go, is tucked right in the middle there and is seemingly locked up for now.

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Butter Bakery, a good ol’ standby, was there for our lunching needs, although the combo of the boarded up windows, chairs on tables, and needing to take the food to-go made the usually sunshine-y spot feel like an entirely different place.img_20200603_1219559062863205022289221.jpg

We found a shady bench and chairs on the side of the building, though, so we still thoroughly enjoyed our outdoor lunch experience.

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Alright, guys, let’s end on a big note here: HENRY FINALLY LOST HIS TOOTH!

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It’s technically his second, but the first one fell out at night, and we’re not sure where it ended up. So it’s the first time he’s gotten to hold his tooth in his hand. His permanent teeth seem to grow in behind the baby ones, so his baby teeth take forEVer to fall out. This one’s been with him for…I don’t even know how long.

So, HOORAY!!!!

 

Memorial

Looking back at these photos from last weekend is bittersweet for me. It was a time of rest and joy and recuperation. It seems so distant now, because this week has felt so long. My city and its twin are on fire, and my heart is hurting for everyone involved in this whole mess. My family and I walked from our home to the initial protest of George Floyd’s killing. It was heartening to see so many of my neighbors out wearing masks and making clear that this is NOT how we want our police officers to act.

What came next, however it came next—theories abound, but who can really know?—is hard to talk about. It’s hard to know how to feel or what to say or do. So all I can say is that for now, my family is fine.

It’s hard not to get sucked into following coverage, but that wouldn’t help me or anyone. Throughout the pandemic, my church has been sending out daily emails. Yesterday’s had a bit that has stuck with me.

“What to do? Whatever keeps you loving God, your self, your neighbor, always remembering that ‘justice is what love looks like in public.’ Let us all commit to doing the inner work and the outer work necessary to creating the beloved community, that Martin Luther King Jr. talked about. …Commit to the practices of meditation or contemplation, the inner work that refines our minds and hearts to let go of the greed, prejudice, blame, and falsehood and gives us courage and inner peace. ”

So, I will stay aware and try to be a loving citizen in all ways. That starts, of course, with the little moments, the tiny interactions. And as always, but especially in these days where we are all home together, that starts with loving my family.

For me, that includes blogging. Since I created my first blog in 2009, I have used posts to keep me aware of my life. I was sad to be leaving Minnesota and my college family for Colorado. I was lonely in Colorado. Blogging was a way for me to look back on my day, acknowledge my circumstances and appreciate the beautiful things that happened to me.  It became triply useful in this way once pregnancy and baby-time came, because man did I find that hard to appreciate in the moment. It has had the added bonus of making me feel connected with family and friends that I am distant from.

So, with all that being said, let me share with you what our Memorial Day times looked like. Joe’s parents were not going to be using their cabin over the long weekend, and they kindly allowed us to spend our time there in their stead.

We’ve been reading the Sprinkle Sundays and Cupcake Diaries series by Coco Simone. At the end of the cupcake books, there are cupcake recipes. So we bake them! The boys do it all, with me as supervisor. I try to encourage them to have as  much agency in the process as possible. Here are our pineapple upside-down cupcakes! They were SO tasty.

Here is Charlie announcing with his invisible horn that it’s CUPCAKE TIME!

But with a setting like this, Henry was happy to take his time. Cupcakes are great, but they don’t hold a candle to swinging by the water.

Charlie outgrew that swing, however, so the magic swing-set Fairy put in a bigger one!

It got a LOT of mileage this weekend.

Oh, Daddy!

The dock was nearly submerged, so we had (careful!) fun walking out onto it and getting our toes wet.

It’s been good to be home together over the past few months, but there’s nothing like being together with no work or school to distract. Just true down time to enjoy each others’ company.

Puzzle boys.

Digger man was busy working the gravel pits

But when Joe walked by with the mower….

…he couldn’t resist taking over.

Luckily, Charlie was around to mind the gravel while he was away.

Doesn’t get much better than this.

We had some good game time, too. Jenga was hilarious, because after one round of doing it the normal way, Henry was dying to mix it up and make it harder.

Charlie was game, but after it would fall, it took awhile for Henry to re-build a new masterpiece. So Charlie and I played a game of Phase Ten on the side.

On the drive home, we stopped to grab lunch at Cafe Wren. The online ordering and contact-less service made it more of an ordeal than usual, but with such a lovely patio to wait on, we couldn’t complain. Loving the flowering trees!

A final stop at Franconia Sculpture Park was in order as well.

A huge pixelated gnome!

So nice to wander in and among peoples’ eclectic ideas.

Henry was in heaven surrounded by all the dandelion puffs.

Here’s a video of just a few dandelion seeds being spread

Hey, it’s me!

I hope you are safe and well.
Sending love to you, wherever you are

Green

I love that a new color has been added to our hiking palette. We did so much hiking and exploring when the world was all browns and greys, that this new addition of green feels like a reward. We leveled up!

It makes Henry want to serenade the world!

He got to do a solo at my Zoom Commencement, which made him (and all of my classmates who are children-loving educators) so happy!

The other night after dinner I felt like a walk. I figured the boys would be hunkered down for the evening, but everyone was excited! So we walked towards the creek and meandered along. It turned into a beautiful three-mile explore.

Saturday, it was supposed to rain all day, so when we woke up and it was still dry, we hedged our bets and tried to get a morning walk in early. The rain never came, so we were able to enjoy the creek again, this time near Minnehaha Falls, to our hearts’ content.

Gotta love the roar of a waterfall.

And then from above

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We found a cool walkway along some bogland.

I swear we didn’t graffiti this. There’s another Henny out there, apparently!

I hadn’t seen my parents since January, and that’s a terribly long time for us. So we finally figured out a plan where neither of us had to drive 8 hours in a day to social distance together. Meet halfway!

So Monday, the boys played hooky from school, and we had a Clear Lake day.

Charlie had fun asking my parents Harry Potter trivia questions. He just finished the seventh book, and was excited to talk about it. Henry enjoyed running along the water and tossing in rocks.

It was a rainy, cold day, and we all got wet. But I felt warm and fuzzy inside!

A friend of my parents has a lake home there, so we were able to at least shelter there for awhile. She had a nice big covered patio and everything.

It was also just down the street from an ice cream shop! It was no Snookie’s, but it served our purposes just fine.

Also nearby was a hilarious pirate ship patio. Here’s my dad as a salty mariner.

Checking out boats at the dock felt just like being in Missouri. We found some fancy pontoons we wouldn’t have minded taking out on the lake.

And right before we had to end our day (which felt much too short, by the way), we came upon this tiki statue to put us all in good spirits. 

Okay, I know I’ve already put a picture of Minnehaha Falls in this post, but I went back a few days later. Isn’t it beautiful with the mist and the setting sun shining down?!

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Also made it all the way to the Mississippi River this time.

There’s Lock and Dam no. 1 and the Ford bridge.

Finally, we took a walk around Lake Harriet. In the gardens, the boys found a sundial. 

Henry made a sundial this week for school, so he was especially curious to see how this one worked. His is below. It was roughly 11:30.

I was pretty jealous of this guy out on the paddleboard. It was 5pm, but it was hot out!

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Someone painting the flowering trees

Donna has been good about doing Secret Stump things every week of quarantine. This week the boys found dough and instructions for baking a cinnamon swirl loaf!

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Life is beautiful

As most of you know, I just graduated! Woot woot!

I actually have one more three-week course that I’ll take in July before I’m completely done with my program. But for all intents and purposes, I have my M.Ed. in K-12 Visual Arts Education.

I’m loving that it’s tulip time…even if Tulip Time couldn’t happen this year. Bringing them inside has been filling me with joy. Now it’s moving to lilac time, and I’m loving that, too.

Minneapolis had a free day off of school last week. So Joe declared that it would be  Pina Colada Day. The boys didn’t know what that meant, but they were excited, nonetheless. These days, anything that isn’t distance-learning is pretty darn exciting!

We’ve determined that 8:30 is school/work start time. It’s been a good move, because it allows us to have leisurely mornings every day without feeling bad that we’re not accomplishing anything. Henry loves the snuggle time, Charlie loves the reading time, and I love getting to enjoy my coffee while reading my great-grandmother’s life story.

Biking and walks in the late afternoon have also been happening more regularly.

The other night, Henry enjoyed pretending his bike was a machine he had to crank.

Our hairs have all been getting a bit long.

I gave some trims the other day that didn’t go awry enough for anyone to notice. When my mom gets to our heads, she might say differently. But we look acceptable on Zoom and from six feet, and that’s all that matters right now!

Did I mention I’m loving the spring flowers?

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Fun things in the mail are also more appreciated than ever.

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The boys’ school had a staff parade the other day. We made some big signs, because we were so excited!

It was so fun to see people as they drove by in their separate cars. I was thrilled even to greet staff members I didn’t know!

Mother’s Day lasted two days, which I loved. Saturday, we had social-distance celebration with the Novaks. It was the first time we’d been to their house in…I don’t even know how long! The boys were happy to bust out some of the things from their garage they’d been missing.

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I tried out my new mask. I somehow lost my other one. They’re so small! I swear the washing machine ate it. So I had to fashion myself a new one. Then my sewing machine decided to jam mid-way through! It was quite the frustrating process. But I managed to finish it up by hand.

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On actual Mother’s Day, it was cold and rainy.

But I wanted to go to Lake Harriet anyway!

They’ve closed all the roads around the lakes so that walkers and bikers can maintain distance from each other. It’s great!!!! I kind of hope they keep them closed from cars forever.

We had another cool-ish beach hang, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I pretended the lifeguard stand was my Mother’s Day Throne.

I had some nice visitors.

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Goslings!

There was a canoe in a sea of tulips. So…we did some voyaging

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On our walk back, we went through the bird sanctuary

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Then we headed up to Eat Street to grab some banh mi for lunch.

All in all, a win of a weekend!

May

Henry slept funny, and ended up with a sore neck. Since he’s six, he didn’t believe us that he had to keep moving it to keep it from getting even more sore. So by the end of the day, one of his shoulders was several inches higher than the other, and he couldn’t move his head without lots of pain. I would periodically try to gently adjust him, and he would get so mad. So finally, I took this picture so he could see how wonky he was holding himself in what he felt was ‘normal’ position.

Then another in an actual normal posture, which he felt was wonky. He laughed and laughed when I showed him the comparison. He couldn’t believe it!

One of our spontaneous extracurricular activities last week was doing cat’s cradle and practicing knots. At the end of the day, several of our chairs and stools remained tied together!

We made it to the end of Mo Willems’ lunch doodles, which was a bummer, indeed. But turns out they’re good the second time through, too. Especially the one featuring Dan Santat. It’s a treat, and the boys cackle every time. In the pic below, you can see my drawing of Mo, himself.

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He inspired some fun creations, including this crown. He was making one for his wife’s birthday, so I figured I’d make mine in honor of my impending graduation from grad school. This Friday would have been the ceremony.

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Charlie turned one of his doodles into a terrifying monster that tried to eat his head!

Last Thursday, I thought I’d take us on a field trip. I have only glorious memories of Excelsior, so we headed there.

It was super beautiful, and the temperature was great. Should have been amazing. But the bugs!!!!!! It was so awful. We were actually happy to have masks, because it meant we weren’t afraid of the bugs going up our noses!

So, we enjoyed the view,

soaked in some sun,

listened to the lapping sounds of the water on the rocks,

and then got the hell out of town!

Hardly the afternoon I’d envisioned. But, the car ride allowed us some time with Bill Bryson on audiobook. So all was not lost.

I took a May Day Restorative yoga workshop (livestream), which included things like self-massage, yoga nidra, and some beautiful meditation and self-inquiry. I wanted to be surrounded in flowers for this, so I brought in some of my tulips, bought some of these pretty purples, and re-vased some of the remaining daisies from Lynn. It made the practice so beautiful, and also meant I had fresh flowers to put around the house afterward. It has been so nice to have them.

Spotted this guy in our apple tree!

The book series the boys have been super into over the past few months is called Sprinkle Sundays. It’s about three girls who work in an ice cream parlor. They get creative with the flavors and sundaes, one of which is chocolate chili.

We gave it a try! We each added our own chosen spice into chocolate ice cream that I’d made.

Charlie did chili powder, I did cayenne, and Henry did both plus curry powder. We had to top them off with “a sprinkle of happy,” like the girls do.

We all liked them all! Henry decided that next time, we should mix the spices in with the ice cream while making it, instead of sprinkling them on top. So that’ll be next time!

We’ve been loving having dinner outside on the patio.

Especially the other day, when Charlie had created a game for us to play after the meal.

He calls it ‘Race to the Castle,’ and it led to some fun figuring and re-figuring of rules to make the game work smoothly.

It led to some great laughs!

Happy Mother’s Day to the moms out there. I’ll update you next time on my glorious day today. Hope yours is wonderful, too.

Never a Dull Moment

We have been so busy!

I mean, yes, we’re doing work and grad school and elementary school. That stuff takes a lot of our time and energy.

But, have you ever had a laser-maze set up in your hallway?! Hooo boy. THAT takes some time and energy. And contortion. Every time you need to go down the hallway. It’s good for the mind, body and soul.

We’ve received many delightful surprises from loved ones.

Nothing like playing a new game for the first time!

Sometimes we get a liiiiittle bit silly.

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We’ve been having increasingly more bonfires.

That has then spurred us to finally take some action steps toward what we have long talked about: Bonfire Area Improvements!

We hope to re-build the pit with better blocks, level the ground around it, and put in  pavers or something so that chairs don’t just sink into the dirt several inches.

We managed to accomplish step zero, which was to dig out all of the ash and turn the pit into an actual in-ground pit.

I started digging, and Charlie and Henry just jumped right in of their own volition! They were super excited to help. Kids actually like manual labor when it’s not forced upon them. They felt so grown-up and so strong!

We even inspired Joe, after he emerged from the office, to tackle some adjustments on the alley-side of our back fence.

I love that he’s still wearing khakis and a button-up while loading dirt into a toy dump truck.

Another Pop-Up Walk! The rain kind of put a damper on this one, as you can see in those clouds.

The boys found a bat and ball in our yard that was presumably from Easter, but somehow was not discovered until a week or so later! They’ve been really enjoying hitting the ball. Our yard is a little narrow for it, but we make it work and also are able to walk to the park for some wilder hitting.

Lego FaceTime continued: the sets are getting more complex…

…especially once the pirate shipwreck was completed.

What a great team we make!

Sending love to you all

Spring

Easter crept up on me this year.

Luckily, the Easter Bunny didn’t forget.

The hunt caught the boys by surprise, because it happened on Saturday. Sunday promised snow, and it did not lie.

Easter morning was a little strange.

Joe and I dressed up anyway, because it just felt like we should! He had ordered an amazing Easter dinner from a local restaurant, so we ate like kings. Then, since outside wasn’t too appealing, we put on a pot of tea and played some Trivial Pursuit!

We ‘zoomed’ with the Sikkinks, which was really great. Everyone shared a little bit about what they are up to, so we all got to see one anothers’ faces while gleaning the information we would have if we’d all been gathered together and chatting individually. Good going!

So, pirates are still a big thing for Henry, and both boys are very much into Lego-ing.

So, when Joe found this amazing Lego pirate set, we were intrigued. It re-imagines the classic Lego pirate ship from back in the day. It got shipwrecked, and has been turned into a tavern/inn for pirates on an island (you can also build the pirate ship in its original form as well).

Since we’re all home together, we thought it would be a great project for right now.
The boys freaked out!

Getting used to the instructions style of a 16+ project took some parental guidance.

But it wasn’t long before they were able to truck along themselves. We had to request that it be a whole-family project, and that we just build a little at a time. Otherwise Charlie would have had the 2,500 pieces put together that very day!

It ended up being perfect, because each stopping point on its own provided days of play and examination.

Charlie has been doing a lot of FaceTime calls with a friend, and they have morphed into them creating Lego sets for the other person to see on their screen. Then they tell stories about the characters. It’s delightful! This was only their second, so it’s still pretty minimal.

Oh, the sillies! Staying in a house all together gets us all a little goofy, and it feels great to be able to just be your most honest self. This was jammy time, and Henry decided both of his legs should go in one pant leg. It led to some nice hopping!

Even school can be fun when you do it right. Here’s Hennie’s ‘Sight Word Wall.’ He loves getting to stick them up with push-pins. A lot of the words are ones he’s decided he wanted to add, not just ones his teacher sends. And for the record, ‘go’ and ‘on’ are supposed to be separate. He just wrote them on the same slip. ‘Goon’ is not a word we are working on recognizing. Although it’s definitely the first thing I see every time I look at the board!

Bananagrams tiles are good for word practice as well! He doesn’t even realize he’s doing school. I like Charlie’s acrostic there at the top. He’d just read a book about the scientists who discovered each element. That’s where Lise Meitner and Glenn T. Seaborg come from!

I was feeling cooped up, missing local businesses and needing to make something. So, when Mo Willems, in one of his Lunchtime Doodle videos showed us a little village he made out of boxes to create the illustrations for one of his books, I dove in!

Here we all are at a local candy store and our favorite coffee shop. It felt good to see some version of us getting to go out, even if just in finger puppet form.

Warming up

Alright. Now that I’ve chronicled our spring break travels, it won’t be long until I’ll catch up to the where we actually are in time. I’m looking forward to writing in the more present tense.

That being said, this is a strange time, and one in which we all are needing to slow down and appreciate the moments. So I’m not going to sum up or rush to catch up. Here’s what happened next.

This is the new face of a nearly decade-long tradition of us Novaks all gathering together once a week for Family Dinner.

We took a hiatus and even tried out a Zoom Dinner. With the realization that six feet is so much nicer than a screen, we tried out a social-distance walk. Jim has dubbed them “Pop Up Walks,” since the location and time have to be more flexible. Also, it’s a more fun term that doesn’t involve the term ‘social-distancing.’ Look at us doing so well staying apart while together! As the weather warms and more people venture out, this is getting more complicated, but aren’t we all getting so good at being flexible these days?!

I know at the beginning of April there was (and still is) a lot of boredom happening in the world, but I am grateful that it is not happening in my house. If anything, my “free time” has dwindled to next to nothing. And again, I say, I am grateful. Here is a quick little 3-image montage of how my days were filled during my third week after leaving student teaching.

There was a lot of Legos, a lot of doing projects around the house to help with my own mental health (and productive!), and some really lovely togetherness. Adjusting to being all together all the time was pretty seamless. We all had moments of deep emotion, and it’s not like we flipped and switch and are all fine now. But the perspective of just enjoying now has been helpful. Especially since we have no idea what later will look like.

Distance-learning officially began for Minneapolis Public Schools on April 6.

It’s fascinating to do this with a kindergartner and a third-grader simultaneously. Most of Henry’s schoolwork either starts as or turns into delightful play that he conducts himself. It’s wonderful, and also deeply sad that he cannot have this time to do the real work of kindergarten, which is socializing with his peers.

Third-Grade is much more straightforward. Charlie does his assignments and turns them in through Google Classroom. That first week, he liked to do all of his work back-to-back to finish school before moving on with his day.

His teacher also scheduled a virtual class meetup. The students loooove that chat feature!

Both of their teachers have been incredible, and I am impressed at how they have adapted content for this new setup. The real work is figuring out the best mode of delivery at home. We’re still working on that, but so far it has been a success, if not a smashing one.

The best thing that has happened is that Charlie is now enjoying doodling and coloring again! We have Mo Willems to thank for that. We have been fans of his books for awhile, and even saw a live stage adaptation of one at the Children’s Theater Company. Now we hang out with him for 20 minutes a day, while he guides us through doodling and creative exercises. We love it.

I now realize that photo is of them filling out COVID-19 time capsules, and not, in fact, doodling at all. But you get the picture. ALL OF THE MARKERS!

We took a field trip that first week, because…yeah.

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This is at a sculpture park in St Paul.

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Can you find the Charlie?

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Heading back in a western direction towards home, we stopped at the Mississippi River Lock and Dam no. 1. I had been promising Charlie that we would go during spring break, and that obviously didn’t happen. So he really wanted this to be included in our field trip.

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Aaaaaaaaand….it was a wee bit of a disappointment. Henry’s phrase of the month, wherever we go, has been, “when all of this is over, we need to come back to this place!”

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I am SO happy that Charlie got over the hump of two-wheeling last summer. It would be a hard and frustrating time to work on that skill. Now we can all bike together and have grand adventures this summer. We took our warm-up ride of the season at the cemetery across the street. It felt so nice!

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See you soon!