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!

Up North part 2

We began our time in the U.P. at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Joe brought us first to a series of falls on their way to Lake Superior.

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It was a fun trail, because we were on everything from regular dirt trails to boardwalks…

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stairs made of roots…

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and stairs made of boards.

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There were multiple points to go out and wander around the flowing water

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Joe always takes it as far as he can

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Learning about potholes

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The cherry on top of this area was following the water all the way to where it joined the big lake.

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First the boys and I dove right into the waves, but Joe then redirected us to the actual area where river meets lake, which turned out to be a delightful little secluded and calm spot.

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They practiced skipping stones. That’s a skill I gave up on long ago, and I’m fine with that.

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But those three really enjoy it.

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There’s Joe on the opposite shore. He’s an intrepid swimmer.

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We stayed in Ontonagon, MI. Our motel was just across the parking lot from the main drag, including the restaurant we ate several of our meals at on their street-side patio. Charlie was feeling a little sun-toasted, so this was his solution!

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The next day we hit Lake of the Clouds.

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It was quite a view right up front, and then you could walk as much on the trails along it as you wanted.

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We chose to just go a little ways and then head to some other trailheads. Next up was Summit Peak, which had a tall structure you could climb to get a good view of the area. Here’s Henry contemplating the stairs.

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Charlie loves being up high like this, so he was so content taking in the view.

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Henry was ready to get down low again.

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Finally in the day, we hit a trail designed to show historic points and share information about a specific mine in the area. The U.P. has a huge history of copper mining. This was my favorite trail, because it had the informational placards that Charlie loves, but was also just a beautiful walk through woods and along a creek.

I told them to show me their “mining face.”

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After we got back to the motel and ate some grub, we headed for an evening at the beach. We’d gotten an abbreviated time there the night before, but we were all anxious to get back to it again. It was a glorious beach, with soft sand good-temperatured water and a shallow depth for out as far as you could possibly want to go from shore. For Charlie, that was very, very far, while Henry preferred to mostly do excavating and building in the sand.

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I love the beach!

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That evening, I went for a long walk around town, and ended by walking  the full length of the beach while the sun set. It was amazing how drastically the sky changed as the moments ticked by.

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I mean, look at this!

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So gorgeous. Thanks, Ontonagon!

Up North. part I

TEN years ago today, we all had a big party together. Look at us gettin’ down!

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It was a magically fun day the whole way through, from a solo self-manicure at 6am to bocce ball that night at Half-Time Rec

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So much has changed since that day, but one thing hasn’t. Joe is the best partner ever and I’m lucky and grateful to have him.

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Also for our two little schnookum-bookums. Henry made me this congratulatory necklace this morning to celebrate our anniversary. It jingles.

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Three years ago, when we envisioned our 10-year anniversary, Joe and I decided to take a trip to Germany. Of course, we certainly didn’t picture 2020 at all the way it turned out.

Still, Joe planned a lovely road trip for us up the Keweenaw Peninsula in the U.P.

We stopped in Wausau, just to check things out, and we all found it very charming. We found we kept referencing it throughout the week.

There was even a great cupcake shop, Sweet Lola’s, that supplied us with sweets for that night.

Charlie liked all of their retro stuff.

That night we stayed at a cabin near Boulder Junction, Wisconsin with a couple from the Cities. The boys were excited about their bunk bed setup.

Heading down for a canoe ride!

 

There were oodles of eagles flying around the lake

That night we watched a glorious and unanticipated moonrise over the lake, prior to which we got to enjoy a vast, star-speckled night sky that we never get to enjoy in the city.

It was a lovely start to the trip. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is just way too beautiful for me to condense into one blog post, so we’re going to do this in the style of spring break where I do a post-per-day kind of thing. Buckle up!

 

Thank you all for going on this journey with me, whether I’ve known you way beyond the last ten years or only just recently. Here’s to much more!

On We Go

When you’ve put a lot of time and energy into planning and dreaming of something, it can feel deflating when it’s over. My vacation last week was like that. It was such a positive experience, so readjusting to real life took a few days. I felt annoyed by the reappearance of actual chores and let down by the seeming lack of an array of fun activities to choose at a moment’s whim.

What helped me adjust was (well…mostly time. But also…) arranging flowers.

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Taking the beautiful product of my time and energy throughout the summer and bringing it inside to brighten the interior landscape helped me feel grateful and happy for how wonderful a normal, “boring” day is for me.

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

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I’ve loved it since the day they got it, so it was exciting to set it up. Now we just have to wait for the day that visitors are allowed to come to our home again, so we can share the gumball love.

After a few days of the boys reveling in being inside our house, they were ready for an excursion. Wednesday, we parked on Nicollet Island in the middle of the Mississippi River, and went for an explore. Early on, we found a stage, so Henry did a little dance for me.

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On the island, we admired the pattern of the water flow, how it was so still next to us, but just a short ways away it was gushing down a spillway with immense power.

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Downtown Minneapolis

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We went from one Hideaway to another!

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Charlie’s always got to read posted information. I believe this one was about the energy generated from this hydroelectric plant, and how it used to power the streetcars. I could be misremembering, though, so don’t quote me on that.

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A unicyclist!

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

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Approaching the Stone Arch Bridge

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It gives a good view of the falls

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We were finally allowed to see a lock! We’d been thwarted back in March. Here the boys are watching carp eat the algae that accumulates. I chose to watch the clouds, since I don’t love watching fish do much of anything.

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

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She was also an entomologist, so she shared her knowledge and specimens with us. The boys had lots of questions, so she was tickled pink to “talk bugs,” as she put it.

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Hennepin Avenue Bridge

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I didn’t get a good shot of the Stone Arch Bridge, but you can just barely see it through the arches of that bigger bridge behind the boys.

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A train driving over the river

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Climbing up to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge

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We were hot and sweaty when we got back home, but also very happy. We headed down to our cool basement to watch Cinderella and lower our body temperatures.

The boys will be starting out the school year distance-learning, but my district doesn’t have its plan quite yet. So I headed in to my classroom yesterday to do some looking and thinking and configuring in case I’ll be doing anything in-person.

It’s a big job to set up a classroom! Here’s my little display box I’ll be in charge of. Until there’s student art to put in it, I want to come up with something.
What to do…what to do…

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Vaca in 2020

We joined our quarantine-bubble up with my parents last week for a very wonderful time on a tucked-away peninsula in southern Missouri.

But first, we hit Snookie’s.

The protocol there is different these days, but the treats are delightfully the same. I even tried something new!

The last time I’d been in Des Moines was in the middle of winter, and it feels like ages ago.

Happy as I was to be there, it was easy to keep heading south the next morning, because the lake awaited!

Charlie pretty much lived on the boat for the week.

He loves to be out on the water, floating, swimming and feeling the speed.

Whenever Henry went out, he immediately claimed his space as the figurehead up front. Just don’t call him that. He’s not a figurehead. He’s a person, as he had to remind us.

There was a lot of fishing to be done. It normally happens long before I wake up. Mark and Grandpa Mel go out together, sometimes with others in tow.

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Success!

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Someone caught a catfish that we were encouraged to go check out in the live well after breakfast. Henry was hesitant, but once he saw it he got motivated to try out fishing for himself. We asked Mark if he’d give us some help (I have nothing to offer in this particular area of expertise), and he did us one better. We took a few hours in his fishing boat that morning, just the three of us. It was not only a lovely experience, but also a fruitful one. Henry caught two largemouth bass within the first 20 minutes of our outing!

Video of Henry’s Catch

As you can see, the fish themselves kind of freaked him out, but he was proud and happy and really enjoyed himself.

A new porch addition onto the cabin the Grandma and Grandpa stay in allowed us to eat meals outside as a group. It was also a great place to just hang and play. Henry and Brady spent a lot of time telling each other stories and sharing knowledge.

Brady’s little sister, Brynn, was the focus of a lot of Charlie’s attention.

My cousin Blaine, Mo and their two

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Brynn was a big fan of the golf cart and gator, which she called, adorably, ‘Mo-mos!’ Here’s her grandma giving her a pretend ride.

The Vandegrifts were there this year, too, so there was a good group of the next generation.

My cousin Bobbi, and her three!

Caden really enjoyed bubbles.

The pool was a hot spot. Henry’s tiptoes finally reach the bottom in the shallow end, but I was glad I packed that Dory ring so he didn’t have to constantly be swallowing pool water.

Charlie was quite the retriever of sunken objects.

The marina was still open, despite the pandemic and whatnot, so we still got to enjoy seeing the boats come in for gas while eating ice creams. This propped up boat now serves as a seating area. It sat abandoned for years, and Charlie and I used to imagine what it could be. A few years ago, when we found it spruced up and in use, it was like a dream come true.

The boys are with my dad down on the dock there.

We also hit up a new marina this year. Mark took us for a boat ride to Shell Knob, which no one in our crew had ever been to before. He asked Charlie to be the GPS navigator, which Charlie happily took on.

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Caden smiling with his daddy and grandma on the way

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Here Mark is explaining the mysteries of the universe.

…like just how incredible Bill’s World Famous Lemonade is.

I got to blow some bubbles for Caden

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My two second-cousins, both currently living in the Twin Cities, were there, so we got some excellent bonding time in the boat and playing games in the evenings.

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They bring extra fun!

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Charlie behind the wheel

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We took a few lovely pedal boat rides. This one, I believe, ended in us watching rain come towards us over the lake and drenching us. It was wet, but beautiful and exciting at the same time.

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Some down time ‘bags.’

I liked their storage spot for the bags themselves.

Henry drew so much that Grandpa Steve had to pick up a sketchbook for him. He ran out of paper!

Mother-Daughter laughs at lunchtime.

Followed by my grandma learning more about Legos than she ever thought she’d know.

We did a joint dinner with the Beckers one of the nights–Mark and David spent all day monitoring the smoker so we could enjoy some amazing pulled pork.

After dinner, we hit the firepit for the annual s’mores roast. It’s always hot, sticky, messy and tasty. We convinced the Beckers to join us for that, too!

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It was a honey of a week. While we had to deal with very little rain, we got just enough that we got to see this beautiful rainbow.

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The ride home was pretty painless, since my dad was sweet enough to drive a rented mini-van. We had lots of space, movie capability and a fun third-row seat that the boys traded off sitting in.

Charlie entertained us with hours of strange-but-true crimes from an old Encyclopedia Brown book of my brother’s.

And speaking of…tada!

Saturday night, we had dinner with Grandma Betty and Grandpa John and enjoyed a big patio hang with Bret and Leslie afterward. It was simply wonderful to get to see so much of my family this week in REAL LIFE. Zoom just isn’t the same.

The boys were also thrilled to get some time at my parents’ house. It had been too long. Samantha, the American Girl doll, really needed a new hairdo, so Henry made sure to take care of that.

The boys were dying for Grandpa to push them on the swing so they could have a “parade,” whatever that means to them. I caught my dad twirling his finger around his ear, so I believe he was in the middle of telling them they are a little loco.

Our last stop out of town was to grab a latte at St. Kilda’s, the cafe in my brother’s building downtown.

The boys were also thrilled to get a chance to see Chrysanthemum

They helped Bret take the sweet old girl for water trips to keep from wilting in the hot sun.

Apparently from their loft window you can see that this seemingly abstract paintwork is a giant portrait of MLK!

Their home

And then when the rains came, we headed North.

It’s always so wonderful to get back to my own home after being away. It is the best best best to be with Joe. I also love my space and I love being in it. The cherry on top was going into my yard and bringing fresh flowers, that weren’t there when I left, into my home.

Little Joys Everywhere

I was clearing out the weeds along our side walkway the other day, and I discovered these two rogue oregano plants! Gotta love delicious herbs that pop up out of nowhere.

The pumpkin and hyacinth bean vine tangle has begun! I love love love this part of my yard. It makes me so very happy.

I gathered a few items together to bring to my new classroom last week. I planned on measuring and thinking about arrangements, but the cleaning crew was mid-clean process on it, so all we got was a brief in-and-out look. When I saw this sign outside the door…I swear my heart skipped a beat.

That’s me! I’M MS. NOVAK! The Art Teacher! Woohoooooo!!!!!!

So here’s a very empty look at my room.

Professor Novak at the whiteboard

Along with 8th grade art, I’ll also be teaching a straight-up ceramics class everyday. I’m pumped to have access to an electric and kick-wheel. The boys enjoyed trying out the kick-wheel.

They even acted out forming the clay. Attakids!

We’ve been trying to get out in the backyard in the mornings to enjoy the cool and shade. The other day, Henry wanted to turn their marble contraption pieces into a mini waterslide.

It turned out to be a lovely way to enjoy a hot morning

We went for a walk on Monday evening, and passed by the PoeTree…like a free little library but with poems passersby can add. We each thought of a sentence in our heads and then put them all together.

The first line was me, then Joe, then Charlie, then Henry.

I have no idea what’s going on in this next photo. I love it, though. Through the pandemic, these guys have really become awesome buds. They disappear into stories together and are oblivious of the world for a good hour at a time.

Sunday, we asked Joe to bring us somewhere cool. He did some research and came up with this place:

Willow Falls near Hudson, Wisconsin.

I can’t believe I had no idea this was 45 minutes away.

The water near the rocks was icy cold, but the stuff rushing from the falls was sun-warmed and felt wonderful.

Joe and Henry trudged fearlessly to the middle, while Charlie and I took our time and very slow steps.

Look at this tall kid! Nearly in fourth grade. Man.

The boys crawled behind the falls, while I basked directly beneath them, enjoying a natural shower

Glorious.

We had a late patio lunch in Hudson, so when it came time for dinner we didn’t really need much. I made us mango parfaits, and I will definitely be repeating that in the future. Beautiful, delicious and surprisingly filling.

This week, the boys are signed up for VBS through my parents’ Des Moines church. My mom suggested it, since it’s on the internet this year anyway, and I enjoyed it as a kid. It’s great timing, since we’re getting to the point in the summer where there’s some boredom setting in.

I’m letting them figure it all out on their own. Yesterday they did it while I was at the dentist!

This was their craft the first day–railroad tracks. Charlie’s is quite precise and just like the example (with little personal touches, like an added signpost and fishy in the water)

Henry wanted to do his a little differently, and wanted the tracks to look old and broken down.

He enjoyed it so much that he pulled out a long line of old computer paper to build additional track as wide as our dining room.

I love seeing how different my two kids approach the world. Isn’t it wonderful how many different ways of being there are?

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