Happy New Year!

Look at this serious performer

He and all of his small groupmates are performing the story they wrote called, “The Mittenbread Man.” They all made backgrounds and act out their parts using their gingerbread characters. Watching the pride in the students’ faces was the highlight of my week.

That was one of the few spots you could find me around the house over the past few weeks. Here’s another: snuggled up in my new blanket on the couch. One of my biggest challenges post-ER has been sleeping, since it’s pretty difficult to find a horizontal position that doesn’t put pressure on my butt in one way or another. The couch provided okay possibilities, so I enjoyed soaking up Christmas Tree joy at night.

The boys have really enjoyed having the couch transformed into a snuggle zone.

It was lucky that my school is doing distance-learning, because it meant I was able to get by only having a substitute the days I was in the hospital. As soon as I made it home, I was able to work those last few days of school without leaving my cushioned chair.

Joe and the boys have been taking wonderful care of me during what has felt like a very slow healing process. Charlie cheers every time I do something I haven’t done before. My favorite was when he sang me a song after I managed to sit down at the breakfast table all by myself.

Last Sunday, 14 days after my accident, I finally made it out for a two-block walk a few days ago. It was slow going, and I was arm-in-arm with Joe the whole time, but it was so good to be out of the house and moving my muscles again.

Every day since then I have been able to do much more than the day before.

After a reviving evening of nonsense and games on Zoom with friends for New Year’s Eve, I woke up this morning ready to try out some yoga. I have to do it in sloooow motion, and the most difficult motions for me are the “easy” poses like forward-fold and child’s pose. I actually can’t even do the final resting pose, because of where it puts pressure.

But going slow enough, I made it into some shapes that surprised me!

After that warm-up, Joe and I hit the trails!

No no no. I am not skiing! But Joe has taken a dive back into cross-country skiing, and he’s been loving it.

I took the walking paths, and ended the outing curled up in a cozy snowbank (felt good on my sore bum) and read my book.

Most people were wrapped up in their scarves and masks and sunglasses, so there was not a lot of inter-personal interaction at the park, but one young girl gave me a huge smile as she walked past and said, un-prompted, “Happy New Year!”

It was a small gesture, but it just lit up my day!
So I’m passing it on.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU!

Lots of Stars and a Wish

We had fun getting our house ready for Christmas two weekends ago. Got a beautiful tree, made some hilarious gingerbread cookies (including cowboys and ghosts) and discovered some new Christmas tunes we hadn’t heard or appreciated before

That Sunday, I got to see Julia!!! First time in a year. We met up in Clear Lake and walked the whole area. Luckily, the weather cooperated, and being outside for five hours wasn’t too chilly. We found a cool kids’ camp that was definitely worth a good explore.

Then, after a week of teaching, I got to see her again! We got to enjoy a snowy walk and have coffee loitering like teenagers. I told them to look loiter-y and this is what I got:

Then we walked over to my brother’s new home! They’ve got some fantastic patios, and we tested one out that night wrapped in blankets. It was lovely!

After the tour, we did some sledding on the hill across the street

We warmed up by baking some more gingerbread and enjoying Grandma Penny’s extensive sprinkle and cookie cutter selection.

Evening reading time always seems to get silly somehow!

Sunday morning, when it was time to wrap up our visit, I suggested sledding as a final activity before we loaded into the car to head north.

It was super fun, with some great rides. Unfortunately, the final ride was me slamming into a downed tree. The EMTs had to drag me up the snowy hill to the ambulance, and they were pretty vocal about what hard work it was.

My tailbone area has a lot of healing to do, but the big problem was getting dizzy and nauseated when I sat/stood.

Therefore, it’s Tuesday morning and I am still in the hospital. I’m feeling much improved, and am able to move around on my own, so hopefully I’m out of here really soon.

I have felt so loved and cared for while I have been in here, even though visits aren’t allowed. Bret and Leslie brought me Chinese (including my ultimate comfort food…egg drop soup!) and a blanket knit by Grandma Betty, which has been warming and comforting me to no end

I’m super lucky in so many ways! I do wish I’d skipped that sled run, though

Celebrate Good Times

With the pandemic at its worst yet, it feels a whole lot like March again.
But this time, it’s not new. We’re readjusting instead of reinventing.

We’ve learned some great new tricks from WFH and Distance Learning, like:

BALLOON POP!

and doing sun salutations in our own home instead of in a studio.

But most importantly, we know, without really even thinking about it anymore, how to take full joy in the company of those few people we get to be with. We know that it’s the things we do more than the things we say that matter.

And that’s why, when Charlie said he wanted lasagna for his birthday, Henry and I made those darn noodles ourselves!

Because 10 is a big deal!

It’s also a big deal (though second nature these days) that he can’t celebrate with his friends. So, when he asked for hagelslag (a Dutch breakfast of chocolate sprinkles on toast), I sure did drive to three different stores around the metro to find the right kind of sprinkles. He had been excited about his birthday for a month, and whether he noticed or not, I wanted to do everything in my power to make his day as happy and celebratory as I could.

We were able to do outdoor visits with family, which were really special.
(My toes, which suffer from painful frostbite, were so thankful for Jim’s sauna!)

And he got that Lego set he wanted!

He chose an adorable Thankgiving-themed DQ cake, and Henry, twirling around as he blew out his candles, reminded him to make a wish! It was a day full of joy.

As you probably know, this is a joy-filled week for our family. Thanksgiving, of course, but shortly after comes Henry’s big day! SEVEN

He was born on a Thanksgiving Day, so I’ll always think of his birthday as Thanksgiving. We started the day with bagels and doughnuts, and then spent the day at an elaborate playground in Medicine Lake, soaking up the 50 degree weather.

We’re deep into a book series about a cupcake club (book 26), so picking out cupcakes at Sweet Retreat was the perfect birthday cake options. Before we even saw the cupcakes, though, the boys were enthralled with their gingerbread houses.

And the evidence of the elaborate cakes they have made for people over the years. Charlie loved the Corvette cake, and Henry was most impressed by the cake that looked like a can of Diet Dr. Pepper.

We all looooooved what we chose.

He got a set of bows and arrows for his birthday. Here is his first shot!

It was pure joy watching him experiment

How awesome is this?!

We got two bows, because he’s a partner kind of dude, so Charlie’s training up, too.

How wonderful to have each other

Switching it Up

Eeek! Scary how the time flies sometimes. Here we are mid-November, and I still have Halloween photos to share.

I’ve always loved Halloween decorations. This year they made me especially joyful. The boys are able to carve their own jack-o-lanterns now, so it’s pretty fun to see what they come up with independently.

We didn’t do any trick-or-treating or handing-out of candy, but Joe set up an elaborate candy scavenger hunt around the house. Donna did the same thing at her house (she even got magnifying glasses, flashlights and piano-accompanied singing involved), so the boys probably had more Halloween fun than ever before, even if it looked different.

Henry then had fun playing the piano while Donna told us stories.

The next night, we went out on a walk to enjoy where we normally trick-or-treat and to see the decorations other people had up.

Up until this week, it was really nice out, so we got some fresh sidewalk chalk and had been spending a good amount of time enjoying the sunshine.

In my classroom on the big, important Tuesday, I had my students fold paper cranes. I figured the country could use all the healing, peaceful vibes we could get. YAY!

The boys and I had a Friday off, and supplies to pick up at their elementary school, so they took a walk down memory lane and hung out on the playground. It was so fun (and sunny and warm!) that we decided to hit another nearby playground. And then another. It was delightful!

Then we got hungry, so we grabbed some burgers and found a nice spot at an amphitheater by a little lake to enjoy them.

The next day was just as beautiful, so we raked some leaves.

Can you spot the Zombie hand?

Joe played some tennis (and ran errands…check out that full bike basket!) and we all decided to go back to the playground we’d enjoyed most the day before. I brought roller blades!

On the ride home, Henry put the blades on. They’re bigger than his head!

It was a super busy week for me, work-wise, since I started a new quarter. That meant a chance to start fresh and do things better, but then also a whole new group of students to get to know. Lotta pressure!

But it went really well, and I’m feeling great. Sadly, now with the spike in COVID cases, my school has to go back to distance-learning, which means I head back to teaching in the basement.

It’ll be nice to be home with these boys again, though!

Last night, we watched Frozen, at the Charlie’s request. To prepare Henry for some of the intense parts, Joe read him a brief, Little Golden Books version of the story. It seems to have eased his mind, because when the movie was over, he asked how soon we could watch Frozen II!

Very weather appropriate, now. BRRRRR!

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.

IT’S FINALLY OCTOBER!

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.

Being There

What we have been missing the most over these last several strange months has been…

CAKE!!!!

Oh wait. No, we’ve been doing plenty of baking. Check out that sweet layer cake I made! Sometimes I impress myself.

What we’ve really been missing is that feeling of really getting to be with people–just enjoying human company. After my parents dealt with COVID in their own home, we actually got the wonderful treat of getting to enjoy a visit from them with no fear, since they were past their contagion quarantine while full of those protective antibodies.

How wonderful to play games with Grandma right up close!

Henry and Grandpa Steve both find themselves in funny positions sometimes

A nice lakeside chat with Grandma at Lake Nokomis

and a walking one with Grandpa. Figuring out Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Henry would have let Grandma spin him all day!

Joe tends to ignore posted rules

Such a wonderful time, especially since I had recently started teaching from home and could use some fresh ears to dump my thoughts and feelings into!

The next week, we all got our flu vaccinations. They’ve started doing a clinic at their middle school, so now that it’s not attached to the doctor’s office (and they usually have the flu mist instead of the shot) it tends to go much smoother. Here they are enjoying a post-mist play on our walk back home afterward.

School starting has also helped reconnect the boys with their peers. For so long we didn’t do any play dates, but now that we know more about how COVID is transmitted, it’s less scary to do backyard hangs. The kids are honestly better at social-distancing/masking-up than most adults I see! It’s been so good for everyone’s mental health to get these times of connection in.

I’m now teaching in-person four days a week, while maintaining a full distance-learning classroom everyday. Some of the introductory information a new teacher might get at a school has gotten left behind with the concerns of the pandemic, so the second week left me feeling like I had too much software and systems to figure out to ever make it work! I got sad and angry and indignant and overwhelmed and…yeah.

Luckily, I live with a wise man who told me:

Just kidding. Joe’s the most supportive partner ever. He lets me do all the venting and crying I need, but he’ll also point out when it would help to adjust my perspective AND he encourages me to reach out for help, advice and to be seen/heard.

I needed all of those things, and with the combination of all of them, my third week of teaching (which was also my first week of in-person teaching ever!) has been a success! I’m feeling better, getting the help I need, and every day learning more about how to do this job better.

For my 3D Art class, I had each period take a walk around the school to collect art materials. One class made a ‘nest’ and then plunked a huge rock on top of it, declaring it “The Bird!” This one is my favorite. It’s hard to see, but it was Day One in class, and the looks of the art is not really the point. Their inspiration was ‘how it feels to be back in school.’ Many of them were most struck by how strange the building feels with only a third of the students there at a time. They’re also 8th graders, so they’ve had a lot of prior experience in this building. They decided the best way to represent their collective feeling was to create a house on an island with a bridge. The house should feel nostalgic, empty and old. That’s so real!

So yeah, we’re all working our way through. In the meantime, bigger growth just happens while you’re busy with all the little moments. Like our zinnias

and our tree

and HOLY COW our sunflowers! I have tried to grow sunflowers every year for 6 years, but it never happens. I must have done something right this year.

They’re way bigger than me!

“Sooooooo big!”

New Things

Last weekend, a friend of ours had about the only kind of wedding that can be pulled off these days, a camping wedding!

Look! I helped put together a tent!

It was only about a half hour north of the Cities, so nice and close, but you still felt like you were out away from it all.

They had cut down the wedding to about a quarter of their original guest list, which was, I’m sure, disappointing for them. But I thought it was great. By the end of the weekend, I’d gotten to know a good chunk of the people there, several of whom were Des Moinesians I’d never met before. It was really cool.

The very musical couple even serenaded us by campfire

Such a beautiful time. Nothing beats an entire weekend outdoors. I felt so refreshed and ready to take on life.

And then, as always, coming home felt so good. Although, we may have taken a hike along the way…

We were looking for somewhere to eat our lunch, so we stopped by a favorite bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. That led to Henry wanting to follow the trails, so we did. It was a real treat to come upon this little area. It’s the place our friends used to come for bonfires during college!

The hill behind it is sandstone, which is really fun. In college, there was a throne carved into it, but now it looks completely different. The boys liked this hidey hole.

As is oh, so fitting, Joe found a tree to be in

And I led us to the beach

Charlie had fun uncovering rocks in the sand

and I had fun realizing the sand beneath the top layer was completely black!

So then I made some art.

Paddle wheel boat went by!

After all of that, it was time to go home. It was time to prepare for the big day:

Everyone’s first day of school! We had our devices charged, Joe reminded us to try logging in to things the night before, and we figured out the spots we’d work in.

I was ready to INSPIRE!!!!!!

And then…well…you know how the first day of any class is pretty boring? You don’t really do much except go through expectations and names and whatnot? Turns out that’s even more boring on the teacher end. Middle school students also prefer to be off-camera, it seems, so I didn’t really even get to see my students much. I felt disconnected and disappointed.

That combined with a first- and fourth-grade classroom operating under that same roof made the day pretty hectic. I’m not going to lie. Part of me just wished we could all just skip school for the foreseeable future. I’d rather be hiking.

I brought in some of our beautiful hydrangeas, watched a show with Joe, and got a good night’s sleep.

It all worked!

I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to try again. Day two of teaching middle school was great, and while we still didn’t get all the kinks worked out in Novak Elementary, the boys both had great days of school as well.

We’re doing it!

Transition Time

We’re learning about balance in our home right now

Things are going to look and feel a lot different this fall, and that’s scary and sad. 
But that doesn’t mean fall has to be scary and sad! 

There’s so much to look forward to. Sunday school, for example, will be online this year. That may be strange, but it will also give me, as a teacher, and my kids the chance to engage in it in a new way. Our youth pastor arranged a social distance gathering so teachers and students could meet each other. It was a super small turnout, as expected, but it was also a really joyful time. 

It was so fun, you can see Henry feeling pretty jealous that the first-graders didn’t get to do it (for safety concerns).

He pulled a little Zacchaeus  move

 

Closer….

Finally, they noticed! He was invited to join the water balloon catapulting

…and sploosh!

I’ve been feeling all kinds of feelings about starting school, both for the boys and myself. I’ll find myself getting upset about something specific, but then when I start talking it through, my voice catches when I mention Charlie and Henry. Sure, the details of a new job are stressful, but when it comes down to it, my real feelings have to do with the boys. I’ve been a stay-at-home parent for 9 years. That has been my full-time priority. So even though that is no longer my ‘job title,’ I still absolutely feel like I need to fulfill every one of the obligations I’ve always had on my plate as a stay-at-home parent. Fitting a full-time job in on top of that is…really something. The boys will be doing school at home, and I’ll be teaching both in my classroom and from home.

But it’s also exciting. I have loved getting to set up my classroom. I find myself having fun planning curriculum. I’ve been doing these meet-your-teacher Zoom calls, and I dread and hate them…until a new family hops on and starts talking! Then my energy spikes and I get this full-body joy feeling.

This fall is going to be weird and hard and great. 

Here’s some of the bulletin board work I’ve been working on! Whiteboard drawings compliments of Charlie and Henry

My own graphic adaptation of a favorite scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Backdrop artwork compliments of…Charlie as a wee young’un. He used to love watching watercolors drip down the easel paper. It reminded him of the progress bars that show up when you’re waiting for a computer page to load. He called these drips, “Loady things”

This one might be my fave

And speaking of art reflecting time, values and place…here’s some of our sand art

Yesterday after I accomplished everything I needed to for the day at school (we’re in teacher workshop/setup/planning week), the boys and I hit Lake Harriet. 

We value sunshine, water, digging in  the dirt, and living up the late summer days in the city.

And then, in the morning, I got ready for some more family meetings.

Here I am, waiting for families to join my Zoom call, enjoying my coffee in a mug I got as a gift from the Governor of the Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan…waaaay back when I was a middle schooler myself. 

While I wait, I made some magnets for my file cabinet to give kids inspiration points when they’re not sure what to make.

So yeah. Balance. It’s going to be new and different. But, as the theme song to a TV show I love says, “you take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and there you have the facts of life.”

Up North. The final part

Final days of our trip! What a beautiful journey it was.

We left Eagle River and drove straight through to Duluth, Minnesota. Well, we stopped for pasties along the way, but otherwise, we hit our audiobook (Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer) and a Talking Heads albums hard.

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Of course, the whole ride, Charlie was simultaneously reading a second book, and Henry was drawing.

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Duluth has had to redo its riverfront area because of rising water and heavier storms. The parts that are finished are so lovely! It’s also charmingly right along railroad tracks, which made the boys positively giddy.

Here’s Joe’s beautiful view from above. He was holding our patio seat up at the Fitger’s Brewery building while our lunch was made.

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Lunch! This captures what Henry called his “first time using a goblet.”

Happy boy by the sea

None of us had ever toured the Glensheen Mansion grounds before, so we corrected that.

There’s me on my favorite feature of the house…its patio.

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I mean, who wouldn’t want a brick patio with this view?

Just a short hop down to the water. Glorious.

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Stone arch bridge! This one’s less filled with pedestrians and bikers than the one in Minneapolis.

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Always fun touring houses from different time periods. Our family always seems to find the bathrooms especially interesting!

Me, I think the laundry setups are fascinating. Makes me feel extremely lucky.

The next morning, I wanted to hop in the hot tub in the hotel while the boys explored the docks. When I called to meet up with them, they’d popped over the lift bridge. Just as I arrived on foot at the bridge, this big ol’ ship came by, so I watched the whole process up close and personal.

We didn’t make it to Maine this summer, but we still got to see multiple lighthouses!

Here’s what a lot of the riverfront looked like while it’s being rebuilt. Not as picturesque, but still pretty interesting to these dudes.

And here’s Henry loving up some more big marine artifacts. It’s a good life.

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And with that, we grabbed some pastries and bopped on back to Minneapolis. It was a lovely trip, but that first step into the house again always makes me heave a big sigh of relief.

It’s always hard to readjust to regular life after being on break, of course, but being back in the Cities where we can have backyard joy with friends definitely helps ease the sadness.

Plus, after a week without toys, the boys were pretty happy to dive back into playtime.

 

Up North part 3

After a great experience in Ontonagon and the Porcupine Mountains, we picked up some doughnuts for the road and headed further on up the peninsula. We stopped at Twin Lakes State park along the way to get out of the car for awhile and enjoy our doughnuts.

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Houghton was another charming spot along the way.

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We took a nice long walk around town and made our way to the canal that cuts through the peninsula for shipping purposes.

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We even got to see the lift bridge lift for a passing sailboat

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Just up the hill was the old Quincy copper mine that had some impressive grounds to explore

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Of course Joe had no qualms about just waltzing into the ruins, but it turns out that’s allowed, encouraged, even!

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Imagine sitting on one of these “benches” with 29 other people and then being moved down the track to the level you were working at.

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No, thanks!

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Love a good scale model.

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It was SO hot that day, but you can’t keep Henry away from an old locomotive, no matter how much he’s sweating.

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Especially when it’s sitting on terrifying old rails like this.

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It felt so good to get to Eagle River. It was nice and cool, and the chilly waters of Superior were wonderfully refreshing. We just walked right in, clothes and all, straight from the car.

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The next morning, we drove up to Eagle Harbor to see the lighthouse.

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Charlie was loving wandering around the old buildings and learning about the history of the harbor. Henry especially liked the big anchors, buoys and other artifacts lying around.

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We took a roundabout route to Copper Harbor where we got this impressive view of the area.

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We found an old copper mine that actually allowed you to take a self-guided tour below ground at the first level. The Delaware Mine.

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It was pretty intense for Henry, but I thought it was really cool.

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We also happened upon an old fort for some above-ground exploration.

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We ended that packed day by taking in this waterfall back in Eagle River. This same water is what flows into Lake Superior where we spent the rest of our evening playing.

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Oh, and eating, too. We had delicious food right out on the beach.

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There’s the water from the falls! Joe started that snaking rock path.

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Henry and I couldn’t help but continue the work. As I built, it felt like the rocks just needed to turn into a spiral, so that’s what happened.

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Joe and Henry waded to the other side of the river to do some stone skipping.

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The sun going down over the lapping waves while I read my book on the boulders.

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Then I took a walk around town, arriving back just as the sun was hitting the horizon. I think our spiral looks beautiful in this light.

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One more day of our Up North travels to come!