July?!

Whoa. It’s mid-July. It feels like the summer just started, but looking back at these pictures feels like sooooo long ago.

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Arting

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JOY!

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Nothing better than giant Jenga

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…aaaaand down it comes! I happened to catch it right as it began to tip

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The mothers relaxing in the sun on Father’s Day

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Normally we do swim lessons all throughout the summer, but this year I’m in…gulp…grad school. So we were only able to fit two weeks in. But in that two weeks, Henry was able to move from “I hate this!” to “I love this!” So that’s a win.

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O turned 4! We brought him balloons, and he spent the rest of the afternoon in the corner with them.

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Charlie bonding with lil Pipperoni.

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Ah. Yes. So here we come to the part of the summer that would be listed as both a highlight and a low-light. The highlight is: I got a beautiful new bike!

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The lowlight is…it came into the bike shop the day I crashed my old bike. I haven’t been able to ride it yet, because my now-dislocated collarbone hasn’t allowed me to operate anything with wheels for two and a half weeks. So the bus and I have been hanging out a lot so I can get the boys to the YMCA and myself to campus.

I’ve had a few other mishaps lately that finally got the message through to me that trying to be both an excellent grad student and excellent at life is just not possible. So I am getting better at delegating life stuff and being okay with turning in school work that is not perfect. As long as I’ve learned from it, that’s what matters.

The Fourth of July break was SO well-timed. It gave me four days in a row to not think about school (I did my homework beforehand) and just sleep until I felt good enough to do things like play games and smile again. It was just what I needed.

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It was just what the boys needed, too. They’ve been enjoying the Y, but it’s also been stressful having schedules to keep and so little down time. So the cabin brought everyone’s smiles back.

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Canine time seems to do something for the soul, doesn’t it?

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It was especially buggy, so we kept the fire going all day. And by “we” I mean Jim and Henry. Henry was all about tending to the fire. They even did some experimenting with color sticks to make interesting smoke.

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Fanning the flames

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Saturday (after I’d come back to life!), we had a day of outings. Some went to an art festival, and some to mini-golf. I do love art fairs, but that day it was no contest. I needed to putt.

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Good shot, Jim!

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Derek struggled a little with Hole # 9

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Katy was our trusty scorekeeper. She assured us at the end that it truly was a four-way tie. Mmmmhmmmm…

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They had go-karts, so….

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I couldn’t drive, but it was fun to watch the boys’ reactions.

And then, it was back to the fire. So darn relaxing.

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We made it through another week after that. It’s still hard, but the break gave me the energy to do it. Today we let Lake Harriet provide some rejuvenation and sunshine for us. Charlie was all about the water.

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And Henry was all about the sand. I did half-and-half, which was 100% perfect.

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SUN!

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And to end on a sweet note. We received a box of Lucky Charms  this week, and eating it brought me right back to childhood with every bite. It made me feel quite happy (if a bit sugared-up and not full for very long afterwards). Magically delicious.

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School’s Out

Charlie has had a great second-grade year.

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His good friend hosted an end-of-year pizza party that included water fun, and I think they all hoped it would never end.

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Field Day was always one of my favorite days of school. I’ll never forget the year that Buster ran all the way home from Perkins after Mr. Randall shot off the starting pistol for the first time.

There were no starting pistols at Charlie’s field day, but it seemed like the kids had as much fun as I remember having.

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Charlie and his partner did an impressive job at the three-legged race. “Once you get the rhythm down,” they said, “it’s so easy!”

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The kids unanimously hated the sack race!

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Recovery socialization after all the events

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Henry and I were there for about half of the time, and in that time he spread about a million dandelion seeds. Have you heard, though? They’re okay now! They’re one of the only early pollinator plants, their roots aerate the soil, and you can eat their leaves. So don’t hate the dandelions

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And just like that…Charlie headed off to his last day of second grade.

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It was a lovely year, and he’s disappointed that it’s over. But summer has already proven itself. Lyndale Open Streets was Charlie’s big biking debut. He’s had a lot of temporary successes and almosts, but he biked four miles that day, and is now feeling much more comfortable.

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Henry’s enthusiasm has helped, because it gets us out on our bikes as a family much more frequently.

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The boys got some frisbees from some booth, so we had a quick disc brake on our way

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Beverages were a must on such a beautifully sunny day

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Look at these guys!

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Enjoying a popsicle at the park…

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while Henry dug some trenches

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Look at this kid!

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Hehe

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Joe and I have also had a big milestone. We had our 10-year college reunion last weekend! The boys went to the cabin for the weekend, but before they did, Henry got to join us for lunch at Café Mac.

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I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to spend the weekend with our crew

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I love that we’re in the background of this photo posted on the official Macalester website. Wonder who those people in the foreground are!

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Class of 2009 Gathering

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A lovely encounter with the MacDirect folks led to this silly photo of us with Talon

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Learning about the letterpress in the new art building. I used to work in the Art Department, so it was weird to need directions as to where things were!

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Down time on the Quad has always been the best

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Diligent boys coming back from working out at the Leonard Center

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It was hard for the reunion activities to come to an end, but luckily the separation was semi-gradual, including a day-long barbecue in the Whitesparks’ amazing backyard.

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With a couple of babies around, the boys got to feel like big kids for once. They had some shenanigans in the “Baby Jail”

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It’s hard when fun things end, but I will say it’s a great comfort that a normal day for me is spending time with these yahoos.

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City Walks

The trip I’ve been waiting and waiting for fiiiiinally came.
I made it to New York to visit Katie!

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The big reason for my trip was to spend time with her and the two guys she lives with, but when in NYC, you’ve gotta see what you can. And walking-while-talking is my ideal way to spend time. So we put a lot of miles on our legs!

I had just a few items must-do list: Art, Yoga and Central Park.

Once I got there, though, I realized I needed to add one more: Brooklyn. Mostly because it’s Spot Collins’ territory, but also it just sounds like there’s been a lot popping up there this decade.

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I like this

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I like this way more!

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We tried to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, but we took a wrong turn and ended up on the Manhattan Bridge. It was beautiful and we had much more space to walk, though the trains were…very loud.

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So we’d started in Prospect Park, and Katie headed back home for baby-duty once we crossed the bridge, but I kept on a-wandering. I found Washington Square Park and imagined Jess was reading on one of the benches.

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I made my way up Broadway, stopping for a gyro along the way, and after Times Square was too crowded to pass through, I took a slight detour which took me past some other recognizable things

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While on the phone with Joe, I found Central Park! Check.

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I walked the entire length on my way up to Harlem, seeing a lovely sunset on my way

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We had wonderful evenings in and wonderful breakfasts every morning. I loved getting to spend time with this sweetie! I never managed to catch one, but I swear he’s so smiley!

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I’d been hearing some controversy about “The Vessel” in Hudson Yards, and it turns out it’s on one end of the High Line, and the Whitney is on another. What better walk?!

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I was a bit hungry, so we stopped in to a super fancy mall to find something suitable. This Snark Park caught our attention along the way

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High Line! (An old elevated train track that was turned into a wonderful park and walking path)

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The Whitney Museum of American Art had some treasures for me. Including some Ellsworth Kelly, which I always love getting to see in person

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A rooftop lunch while reading my book

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Perfect weather, beautiful view

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Outdoor exhibitions!

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This massive tapestry of television static just tickled me

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After a roam around Chelsea, I realized I wasn’t far from the iconic Flatiron Building. So why not go take a look?!

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Then I took a train up to see the Frick. They, however, did not accept our reciprocal museum membership so I went a few blocks away to the Met Breuer instead

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And along with that admission came admission to the big Met, so I took a peak at a few of the wings

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Oceania is impressive

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I just liked this

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Eleonora Carrington!

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And some things just grab you. This painting is like 6 feet high

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Central Park again!

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I hit all of the things on my list and had a wonderful trip all around. Thank you, Katie!

It’s always great to come home after a trip, too. Getting off the bus from the airport, I noticed how fresh and fragrant it smelled! I love Minnesota springtime.

This weekend we had beautiful weather, so Joe took us to Afton State Park for a hike

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That’s the St Croix river, which we walked along

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Rocks to clamber upon

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It got a wee bit long for Henry, but Daddy’s helpful in that regard

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Love!

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When we got back home, Mom and Dad were waiting for us. The next day, we took them on their very own hike, just within our neighborhood. There was a surprise wading pool along the way. I didn’t realize they were open yet

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Then we found Minnehaha Creek. There were some canoers who were having to get suuuper low in their canoes to make it under bridges in this high water

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Joe and his dad did that a few years ago, so he tells us the story and mimics what it feels like to do that

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It was interesting to watch them try to get through

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Dad, always ready to help, assisted a kayaker in getting out of the water so she could go around on land instead

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Walkin’ along Minnehaha Creek, havin’ a happy holiday

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‘Cept some parts were a little underwater

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Not here, though!

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Back at the ranch, the boys had so many things to keep Grandma and Grandpa busy

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But it was very serious.

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No one had any fun or anything.

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We all kept our composure

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BYE!!!!!

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Here we go again!

Iiiit’s tulip time!

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I know you Iowans already have had your tulips come and go. But mine are just now fully open, and they look so beautiful!

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And check out the apple tree. We’s gonna have sooooooo many apples

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And the lilacs are getting there. Their incredible smell is faint, but I know in a couple days they’ll be fully blooming and will be filling all of the vases I can find in my house

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Baby plants are making their way along, too

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Even indoors we’re celebrating the spring. I got beautiful cards and flowers for Mother’s Day, as well as some delicious coffee and absinthe.

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This one, too!

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The boys all picked me out this beautiful cake frosted to mimic a robin’s egg

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Haaaaappy Mother’s Day toooo meeeeeee

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Even my neighbor got into the spirit of the day. She hides treasures for the boys at what we call the “secret stump,” and this time she included a special mother’s day card and chocolate for me.

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On Friday, we had dinner at the Tap Society and got to eat outside. I could not stop laughing when Henry was putting ketchup on his burger, because that sucker was so darn big!

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And then I realized my big kid was holding a little teeny bottle of mustard. Love the inversion there

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Of course, Henry ultimately needed both

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Hi Joe!

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I walked in to preschool yesterday to pick up Henry and saw this sign. Look at the note in blue. LAST DAY OF PRESCHOOL! Five years I’ve been walking the boys to and from this glorious place. I can’t believe that’s coming to an end.

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Judson has truly been a wonderful part of our lives

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We’ll just have to keep meeting up with friends at MLK Park through the summer. Henry’s always been a big swinger, but lately he’s really gotten good at pumping. He’s very proud. I was a little late on snapping this pic.

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We’ve also been able to draw more chalk cities and finally hang the laundry outside. It takes a day or so to dry on the rack inside, but 10 minutes in the sun, and BOOM! It’s warm and dry. I think the theme of my life is this: The Sun is Magic.

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Have a fantastic day

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workinonit

I’ve been thinking about endurance lately. And failure.

Some problems you can address with a small amount of time and a gung-ho effort. You know what to do, you’ve just got to do it. I think that’s why I like painting rooms so much. As long as you’re smearing paint on the wall, you can’t really mess up too badly. You work your butt off for a bit and BOOM! You’ve got a whole new backdrop.

Unfortunately,  we all discover repeatedly (daily? hourly?) things that don’t work like that. You’ve got to chip away, and chip away, and chip away. And you don’t necessarily even know if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. One of those that has come up for me started out with some drips in my shower. It has always dripped infrequently, but lately the dripping had sped up. Not a pressing problem, yet after years of hearing that little drip, I was just ready to make it stop. I watched a bunch of videos online, read a bunch of articles, headed to Ace Hardware and confidently bought all the things I could possibly need. It’s funny to look back on now, because I didn’t actually need any of those things for this particular project. Some will be handy later, but most just went right back to Ace.

The first big hurdle was getting off the handles. I tried all of the normal ways of getting them off, but nothing seemed to work. Some online forums suggested that I just wasn’t using enough force. So I used more. They were talking about something different. I broke stuff.

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Luckily nothing bad, it just made future parts of the process harder for me, personally, but what I broke needed to be replaced fully anyway. And honestly, I probably wasn’t going to get to the point of understanding that if I hadn’t made that first mistake. At that point, it was a matter of just doing something or throwing in the towel. I did something.

Charlie’s always struggled with struggling. He’s used to either being able to figure things out ahead of time or having stuff neatly explained to him. So when he doesn’t automatically know the answer to something, he looks like a deer in the headlights. One thing that has helped with that lately is circuitry. I think the best thing about it is that I don’t know anything about it. So he’s got to work through it on his own. He either tries some things out (may or may not work) or doesn’t accomplish anything at all. He tries.

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Green light!

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Henry’s a pro at endurance and failure. It’s how he operates all the time. I love this series of moments of him trying to figure out blowing bubbles (with some old, crappy bubble solution, I might add. I was struggling with it myself).

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Charlie was constantly lunging at the almost-bubbles!

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He got one!

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Mr Bubble Man

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Another thing he’s been learning is good teeth brushing. He’s always brushed and brushed and brushed. In fact, there was a time when I was using our “tooth timer” because he was going on too long. So I didn’t worry much about the quality of the brushing. Figured quantity was fine. Also, he’s been going to the dentist for 3 years, and all has always been well. But it turns out those molars were not quite getting the love they needed, since brushing the front teeth is way more fun. So we had to meet the “Tooth Tickler” at the dentist last week. That was a first for me as a parent, so I was sad about it. But Henry just embraced the new experience, and went in bravely (though slowly) all by himself.

He had fun telling the tale later, especially to Charlie, who just might be a little jealous 😉 Here he is right after. He chose to stay and play in the waiting room for another half hour after he was done, just because he was having a good time.

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Two weekends ago was the May Day Parade/Festival. It’s one of my favorite events of the year, but is sadly no longer able to happen financially. So I hope the people who organize that do some serious enduring this year so that it can continue in the future!

While it’s still around, though, we truly love it.

This huge puppet lady was soooooooo amazing and intricate. She also, moments before I took this was walking straight at us, but I missed the moment. Gah!

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At Powderhorn Park, everyone gathering for the food, music and performances

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Grandma and Grandpa met us there after the parade

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May Day dancers from across the lake

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Bird boats waiting to sail

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Look!

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Those Novaks! Always taking the path less traveled

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We found where they parked the floats!

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Aw…poor house fell apart. Maybe it will end up in Oz

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Boats are sailing! Paddling against a stiff wind, for sure

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But they make it

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And I did, too, gosh darnit! It took weeks of off and on work. Learning and trying and thinking and figuring. And buying the correct parts, which may just have been the biggest challenge.

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But look! Not only does it not drip, it actually gives a full shower, with nothing dribbling out of the faucet below. No fiddling or wiggling of handles necessary.

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Woohoo! It feels so good. And the most important thing is that I learned a lot. Including the fact that neither of the shut-off valves to our house work, which is real bad. So if not for this little project, we’d never have known that until something went wrong and then we’d be hosed.

Luckily, we’re going to get a new water heater, so when Chad the Plumber comes, he’ll do it all at the same time. Won’t that be a fun day?!

Exploring

The boys had spring break this past week.

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Yes, all the boys. Joe took the week off work, too, so we spent 9 whole days together hanging out. Joe also planned a delightful road trip down the Mississippi River and led us to all sorts of beautiful places. The tree above is on Maiden Rock Bluff, and here’s the view down.

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Our next stop was at the birth home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which was almost more than Charlie could handle. As he got out of the car, he whispered to himself, “I can’t believe I’m actually seeing this!!!”

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There’s something amazing that happens when we walk in woods together.

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We stayed two nights in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and explored the area in the meantime

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The river was quite high, so we felt like our feet were about to get wet any minute

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We happened to be in La Crosse on the day of the month when the busses were free, so that made scooting around town easy

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They even had an awesome wooden playground on which to have a rousing game of hide and seek

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At the end of our street was Old Grandad Bluff

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It was windy up top, but the view was great

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We attempted a group selfie, but only Hennie’s hood made it in

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So we asked for some assistance

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And then the silly version

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This lady apparently donated most of the money for the conservation effort to keep this bluff from being turned into a quarry, so we kept her company for awhile

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For dinner the first night, we hit La Crosse Distillery, which was so delicious and had such a good atmosphere that we came back the next night for another dinner.

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Oh, hey!

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After La Crosse, we headed on our way to Viroqua, which turned out to be a great place to spend the day. It provided us with some of the most delicious coffee and breakfast of all time

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Afterward, there was a huge old building filled with books, so we naturally had to fully explore the collection. The boys played a game of hide and seek that was pretty epic. Henry found a spot that neither Charlie nor I could find!

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After a delicious lunch at their local café, we headed to Wildcat Mountain State Park

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Henry was impressed that he hiked up a WHOLE mountain! (Wisconsin-size…)

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Snack break view

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We spent an amazing night in Black River Falls at the coolest Airbnb ever. It was cozy and pretty, energy-positive (the home produces more electricity than it uses)

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They even had this great rocking-llama called Polly

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And fun games to keep us entertained

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Their backyard view

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The next day we walked down to the riverfront from their yard. It got real icy, though, so I decided to go back up and enjoy my coffee on the deck. The boys all trudged on, though!

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After heading out of town, our last stop was Eau Claire. Their children’s museum was wonderful

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The boys had a ball, and even convinced me to enter the digestive system

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We had several chill days at home after our four-day trek. It’s always nice to sleep in your own bed again, and get dressed choosing clothes from drawers instead of duffel bags.

After enough down time, the boys wanted to hit yet another hot spot: the Mill City Museum in downtown Minneapolis. They especially love the water room

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It’s crazy that St Anthony Falls used to look like this

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Charlie, of course, mostly wanted to enjoy looking at the old mill machinery

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It was an amazing week all together.

It’s nice to get back to our regular life, too. It’s a good one

 

Making/Playing

Who. Are. You?

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We’ve read a lot of versions of the Alice in Wonderland stories lately. When Henry found out his various picture books of Alice were based on a real, full-length story, he asked if we owned that one. So…I brought out all six editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland I own. “Can…you read it to me now…?” he asks hesitantly.
YES YES a thousand times YES! I wanted to shout. Instead, I said, “Of course. Which copy would you like me to read from?” He chose the Annotated Alice, meaning there are all sorts of side commentary and minutia in the margins, but most importantly, the illustrations are large, bold, clear, and the book is big and heavy on our collective lap. It was the best. We read straight through up til the croquet scene, then had to stop because Charlie’s bus was due. That night, we finished the rest, with Charlie joining our group. I got to sing the Mock Turtle song over and over, because they loved it so much, and Charlie nearly teared up at the end of the night, because he’d had such a great time.

So basically my life is complete.

Today, we had a St Paul outing day on Cathedral Hill. We had lunch at Nina’s and then explored the Blair Arcade. It’s always reminded me of the room at the bottom of Alice’s rabbit hole, so it was a perfect time to explore it with the boys.

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They took the photos down there, so they’re not so clear. But I love them.

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Racing and chasing

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Back home we’ve been doing a lot of creating. Henry and I had a railway-building session

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The boys worked together on all of the wood craft kits they got for Christmas. They truly did it all by themselves, and their teamwork was outstanding. I was so proud!

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Meanwhile, I put down some grass seed where our yard turned to mud pits from snow tromping. The boys and I also planted a bunch of seeds indoors today, so hopefully once warmth rolls around, we’ll have some good seedlings to transfer to the yard

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There have been…gasp…barefoot days!!!! I’m so in love with the sun right now.

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More projects

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Last week, Henry decided at 5 pm he wanted me to make him a striped prisoner uniform. “Just…whenever you have time today…”

I did the most rushed of jobs, and it’s hilariously small and not fitted. But it suited his temporary needs. He wore them as pajamas that night, even though there’s no elastic in the waist, so he had to just keep hold of them all the time. He makes anything look cute, though.

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Next, he requested we try to make our own version of Cheaters Monopoly. He’s fascinated by it in the store. Sensing a theme? But I’m always up for a creative project, so we did some cutting and drawing and printing. I’m pretty proud of the results, and best of all, it’s actually playable!

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I’m not sure I’d ever played actual Monopoly before (not counting Monopoly Jr.), but now after making all the parts, minus the monies, which we borrowed from my Berlin Monopoly, I have a very good grasp of the game!

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And then one night Charlie busted out Parcheesi! We also didn’t really know how to play that before, but we had fun figuring it out. I love this action shot of Charlie showing his enthusiasm

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So anyway. It’s spring and things are feeling brighter and lighter. Getting to spontaneously stop by the park without having to gear up first is just such a joy.

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I hope wherever you are, you can turn your day into a wonderland.

 

Time Marches On

One morning this week, I noticed Charlie and I were both reading novels quite appropriate to the weather.

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He said, “Well, at least winter hasn’t lasted 7 months, like it did for the Ingalls.” Attaboy!
That afternoon, Joe brought home some spring for us to enjoy

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Then I got some great news. Here’s a hint. I’m wearing a shirt supporting Charlie’s school, and Charlie’s wearing a shirt supporting my new school

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I’m officially enrolled in the Arts in Education program at the University of Minnesota. So starting this summer, I’ll be working towards being an art teacher. It’ll be weird not spending all day every day with these yahoos in the summer. But they proved this winter that they can really roll with the changes and stay their sweet, wonderful, silly selves

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Here’s a lovely picture one of the boys took of their circuits set. Charlie’s been very interested in electronics lately. Been a nice indoor activity to focus on.

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Henry and I, on the other hand, just make stuff. Any stuff. All stuff. Slime, chemistry, towers…one day this week it was pizza.

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Today was a ray of light on our lives, literally and figuratively. It was a wonderful, sunny Saturday all together at home. We had fun making dangling sculptures

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…and following the advice on Charlie’s new shirt:

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It was soooooooooo nice out!!!! Here’s the remains of our snowman from last week.

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The mine is still hanging on a bit

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So sunny!!!!

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He was asleep. Oops!

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He found the mud…

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First car city of 2019

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The sandbox is a big puddle, but that encouraged, rather than discouraged Henry.

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A lovely shot by Charlie. Not sure where it is, but I like it

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Another

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The catalog he was looking at while we were outside.

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Little Boy Heaven

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Hey there, Snow Buddy! Might be time to put you away soon. We’ll miss you, but only so much.

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