Sunday, August 30, 2009

Accidentally Walking

Yesterday, my husband and I went OUT.


With no kids.


Not even the baby.

We were gone ALL DAY.

We were at the STATE FAIR.

And we had FUN!

Can you believe it? We got out of the house!!! That so rarely happens, and I am sure that I could count all the times it does on one hand. To my surprise, it was my husband's idea to go to the fair. He hates the fair! Like really, REALLY hates it. But knowing how much I enjoy it, he invited me to go on a day just for us. What a sweet, sweet guy....I am a blessed woman, indeed.

The day was chilly, and crowded as expected for a Saturday. We walked and walked, for about 6 hours, trying bites of fried delights in about every corner of the campus. To add increasing shock value to the day, Bob's first bite of fair food was popping a grape leaf roll-up into his mouth from our falafel kabob.....which had fallen to the ground. Does the 5-second rule really apply to State Fair concrete???

Honey taffy, honey lemonade for $1, honey-sunflower ice cream, fried pickles, nut rolls, corn fritters with honey butter, real ginger ale that burns the back of your throat, apple dumplings, and roasted cinnamon almonds. YUM. The fried Spam curds we could have done without. We had a marvelous day, bought some sweatshirts to keep warm, strolled through the buildings, just missed the birth of a baby cow (and declined to stay for the placenta), and rode the Sky Ride. It was nice to talk and stroll along, without any responsibilities other than to keep putting one foot in front of the other, over and over and over. By day's end, we were so tired, and feeling so OLD. While back at home, Grandma ? had everything under control, and even the baby was being sweet and doing well. Thanks, Grandma!

On Sunday, I took the kids on a short walk after church. The plan was to only visit the cache located in the neighborhood behind our house to modify a login the kids had done yesterday with Grandma ?. I had one real stroller, one toy stroller, and 7 kids. Nothing more. Though ill equipped for a long walk on such a hot day, somehow walking the 3/4 mile distance to a park sounded like a good idea. "Can we make it?", I wondered. Made it, we did. And shared the space with an apparent mosquito convention.

Hot, thirsty, and itching from bug bites, one would think the next move would be to head back home. But where is the adventure in that? "Can we make it another mile to the huge park on the hill?", I wondered out loud. By some miracle, we did. And the kids were happy to play. Sure, now VERY thirsty and tired, but happy all the same. And the baby? Well, she was hungry. And poopy. I could help her with the hunger part, and used a circular nursing pad as a burp cloth. But the rest? All I had was the stroller. Oh, and my camera (naturally). But certainly no diapers, water bottles, wipes, or cell phone to call for help. We were on our own.
Even when compared to our marathon walking around the fair yesterday, the walk back home from the park was the longest of my entire life. Those little legs we SO tired and took such very SMALL and SLOW steps. They were trying so hard to keep good little kiddos. But time kept ticking, and tiny steps kept slowing, and little complaints started growing. "I'm so hot!" "I'm tired!" "My legs are broken!" "I need my water bottle!" "Een! Een!" and "WAAAHHH!" Jonny and Crispy had the advantage of coasting down the hills on their bikes. (Michael bailed out on us after the first park because he thought we were crazy.) Melissa won the Endurance Award for pushing that toy doll stroller all over tarnation and beyond...sometimes even with her little brother hitching a necessary ride.

While we enjoyed a beautiful summer day outdoors, I don't think we will be trying something like that again without being prepared. Oh well, lesson learned.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Don't Leave...Please

This has been a tough week. Not quite sure why, but I suspect it is the nearing of summer's end, Alex away at college, and the beginning of a near empty and quiet abode during the daytime hours while the kids are at school. And with no homeschoolers this year, it will be a lonely place with only Tubby and the baby here....lonely for all three of us! I really dislike seeing my kids go off to school, and wish they could just stay home forever....and ever....and ever.....right here, all of them.

We have done lots of fun things, and been with some of our bestest (this really SHOULD be a word with how often we use it) friends in the past two weeks. In fact, we hung out with some of our favorite people who live in town today. I forgot my camera (that should be the first clue that something just isn't right), so I have no proof that we actually do have friends here....real live friends. But we do, honest! And though the kids have been so shy with each other in the past, they played wonderfully the other day. We could hear them whispering and giggling in the hallways as they developed their plans in some kind of boy vs. girl game they were conjuring up. I have no idea who won, but it sure was cute listening to them play!

These friends just so happen to have 8 kiddos also, who all are similar in ages to our brood. It is refreshing to be able to converse with someone else who has an idea of the blessings and challenges of many dynamics put into play all under one roof. It was fun to talk about their growing business which will ideally provide them with free time at home and a break from corporate world restraints. I am excited to continue watching them and cheering them on as they travel down this road!

Our highlight of the day was coming home from our visit and finding Alex at home! He was greeted by many little hugs and squeals, and lots and lots of smiles. I think he had missed us too, as he had packed up all his things from Grandma's house in order to begin commuting from home a week earlier than planned. Methinks he likes all these little people after all! And we are all happy to have him back, and I will NEVER suggest he leave again, even if it does decrease his driving time by nearly 2 hours everyday.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Play Date, Take 3!

We have been trying and trying and TRYING to have a decent get-together with Auntie Tracey and her kids. Our first visit a few weeks ago was so very short, as we rushed off to an early reservation to board the Titanic across the other side of the cities. We had set another date for the following day, having no idea that Alex and I would almost spend the remainder of our living hours at the DMV. Being that we live so far apart--on complete opposite corners of the far reaches of what is still considered the metro area--and we are so busy during the school year with activities and Tracey's job as an elementary special ed teacher, we really needed a day to work for a nice, long visit. I am happy to say, that today, we succeeded.

On yet another gorgeous summer day, the kids spent the day--the entire day--playing with Lizzie and the boys at Auntie Tracey's house. The girls had no lack of activities as they played in the massive toy room located in the bonus room of the house. Tubby played with the train table and quietly followed his sisters from place to place, initially being a bit shy around the two boys. Crispy was not there today to help him along, as to Crispy's confliction(is that even a word?), he had a birthday party to go Grand Slam...poor kid, fun options either way!

After Papa John's Pizza (our favorite when we lived in the cities---now our only choice is Domino's or expensive Pizza Ranch), the kids decided they REALLY wanted to play in the sprinkler. This had been our plan a few weeks ago when we were suppose to visit that day it was stifling hot, but today it was a breezy, overcast, barely 70 degree day! They were determined, and we were enjoying the opportunity to converse and catch up, so Tracey kindly obliged and brought the sprinkler up from the back.

It was cold.

The kids had to build up courage.

But they finally DID get a little bit wet.

And it was so sweet to watch them being together.

And even sweeter comfortably chatting with my wonderful friend about childhood memories and up to date issues. Though distance now between us in miles may keep us apart, memories shared and time spent together will forever keep me blessed to have my "sister" Tracey in my life!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Girls' Lunch

Nowhere is more girlie than here:

And where would you rather be than in the girliest place in the state when you are so very girlie?

Especially when it is the neighbor girl's birthday lunch.

Who just so happens to be celebrating her Golden Birthday this year, too.

It's been said that the dolls enjoyed the day as well.

This time, I brought my own doll.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Trip to the Orchard

Yes, it is that time of year already...the orchards around us are opening for fall harvest, providing us with the first apples of the season. One of our most favorite things to do in the fall, and really, isn't it almost a healthy thing to do, too? Off we went, to the one closest to us for a little visit.

We met some friends, had a picnic lunch, shared our new favorite purple pepper snacks from Lisa's garden, and played in the corn pit. Better than a ball pit, these stalls are filled 1-1/2 feet deep will kernels of bright, yellow corn. Cool to the touch on warm summer days, more comfortable than a Tempurpedic mattress, and deeper than the local splash pad, making jumping into the pit a thrilling, yet soft landing.

Little baby chicks were fun to hold (if you could catch one!), and the tractors always are fun to climb. Lots of other animals to visit, including goats and a baby cow, as well as chickens and turkeys roaming about the landscape. Due to recent rains, it was too muddy for a wagon ride with Farmer Curt.....but my kids didn't seem to mind: more time for the corn pit instead!

Alex left this evening for Mankato. He will be staying with Grandma ? & Lyle this week to reduce the driving time while he gets his schedule adjusted. It was still sad to see him go....heading off to college. Yeah, he'll be back on Friday, but stiiiiiiillllllll......HE IS HEADING OFF TO COLLEGE. I think there were a few tears. Not saying who. Maybe by more than one of us. Or more than four of us. Dunno....

Best of luck to you, Alex!!!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Things are getting busy now, with school just right around the corner. Though actual back to school shopping is minimal(I do not subscribe to the notion that the kids need new clothes just to go back to school, nor do the 3 elementary kids need new supplies as our school has a new program in which we all buy our supplies through the in town retailer, and they magically appear in the kids' desks on the first day of school), we can just feel the time winding down. Fast. We took some much welcomed time out today to enjoy some geocaching with Grandma and Grandpa in the lovely areas around this town of ours. It was a gorgeous day, a little bit hot, but beautiful, as most of this cooler summer has been. Today we spent some time walking by the lake, in the woods, roaming through the fairgrounds, exploring downtown, and even searching by the airport in our city.

I am really liking this geocaching game----it gets us outside, we get to visit lots of pretty places, we get plenty of exercise, and we have a lot of fun, too. All of us. Except for when we are attacked by pesky mosquitoes, like today. Honestly, these were the first mosquitoes we have even seen all summer, and boy were they hungry. They attacked us mercilessly, leaving Laura to run away down the path screaming and crying, my mom and I to cower in the truck with the babies, and the boys and Grandpa with at least 300 bites on their exposed flesh.

Crispy and Jonny: Geocachers Extraordinaire

The ice cream that the grandparents treated us to helped ease the itchies a bit. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for the great treat! And our reward for such a difficult day? Our first travel bug that we can officially log onto our account! Hooray! We'll be bringing this up to Duluth with us in a few weeks to deposit it into another "Great View" cache location so it may continue travelling on it's way.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Plain and Simply Crazy

My first baby's going to college. It feels crazy. Like, REALLY crazy. Wasn't he just two years old spinning on the old Sit-n-Spin repeating, "Getting busy(=dizzy)!" over and over? Didn't he just get on the Kindergarten bus for the first time? Didn't I just finish making him that large CatDog cake for his birthday party with all his little friends? Wasn't he just standing at the podium reading from the Bible out loud in church for the first time after learning how to read? Wasn't he just running around the backyard playing "lightsabers" with all the neighbor boys the other day? Craziness, I tell you. Craziness.
My mom came over to watch ALL the kids so that Alex and I could head down to Mankato with all our wits about us. As a special treat for my son, I purposely DID NOT bring my camera with us as we went down to College Orientation today. (Though as you can see, I really couldn't help myself, and finally succumbed to the pressure of needing to take a picture or two with my phone instead.) I had Alex drive the route, in order to familiarize him with this daily path her would be taking. 1 hour, 15 minutes each way, everyday. Yeesh. If he is not a good driver already, he will be one when this is all over!

The campus was fairly huge, and college students were everywhere, moving into dorms, and roaming the buildings and streets. We found a place to park which was only 1/2 mile away from our building, and enjoyed the easy stroll along the edge of campus. We arrived to our destination precisely on time, but behind at least 126 other PSEO students. No matter. The PSEO students are the last ones the picking-classes chain anyhow.

We listened to introductions of names I will never remember, campus info I soon forgot, and directions on how to register/drop/and add classes which were too difficult to follow. For me. Not for my techy, smart son. No, oh no. He can follow computer directions and probably even build one in his sleep. It is amazing the ease with which kids these days navigate technology.
Alex registered for a few classes and band, with plans on taking the math placement test next week so that he can get into calculus and statistics. I got him a parking card ($134 for a spot in the 1/2 mile away lot). We got his books ($240 for two paperbacks, thankfully paid for by the state). Then Alex got his photo ID badge. Whoa. Somehow, that made it all seem official. Seeing his name and picture on that little card.....I almost cried. Or maybe I did cry. Not sure....I was so overwhelmed. But not Alex. He is just taking it all in stride. And he is so completely ready for starting this college life on Monday. I am so proud of him. He has been waiting for this ever since he walked up those Kindergarten bus steps eleven years ago.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gravel Rock

Our vacation to Vining is never complete without a visit to the gravel pit across the street. We hike the short distance down the steep dirt road to a land filled with rocky wonder for the kids. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

These guys could be here for hours.

And hours.

Just climbing and searching for cool rocks.
And throwing them into mud pits, or off the cliffs. Rock cliffs, of course.
And with that, our vacation came to a close, and we sadly said our good-byes. It is SO HARD to leave. Every year. SO HARD. We all just love it so much. And we love our friends so very much more!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Land of Plenty

(OK...I am so very far behind now, being this is the second week in September, but I REALLY want to document the rest of this that the kids are back in school--sniff, sniff--I just might be able to do this!)
I just love being at Lisa's. It is truly one of my most favorite places on earth to be. Maybe because she and her family are such dear friends. Or maybe because she takes such good care of all of us. Or maybe it is because the kids play and play with all their creative energies, and get along so well while we are there. Or maybe it is all the fresh country air. Or maybe it is all the fabulous food. Perhaps it is because they are living life the way God intended. I think it is all these things, and more, wrapped up in one beautiful, comfortable, homey, lovely package.

We spent Sunday morning at their tiny little country tiny.....and so in the country. But always so welcoming. The pastor greets us warmly each year, and has seen these kids grow up, change, and multiply over the past 11 years of our visits. The kids learned a few new songs, one of which is Lisa's favorite, and we had a hymn singing around the piano one evening to learn it better. (I REALLY need to play piano more.) Another evening, was story time in the living room for bed---I think Lisa read about 75 books the kids had picked out, while the kids snuggled in their sleeping bags on the living room floor, falling asleep one by one.

We took our annual kid photo shot at The Big Foot:

Lisa, the baby and I even took naps on the couches (a certain "first" for us--we MUST be getting old!) while the kids played games quietly in the living room:

...and played with the cats outside:

....and on the playset:
....oh, and with creepy crawlies--LOTS of creepy crawlies:
The garden....oh, my, the garden!!!
We surveyed the bountiful gardens, picking purple peppers, beans, peas, cabbages, beets, eggplant, squash, and raspberries:
The kids enjoyed visiting Ham, and feeding him beet leaves:

The turkeys honestly seemed to grow larger in the few days we were there:

The garden was just bursting. One day, we picked more than three crate boxes worth of veggies...on one day! The kids enjoyed picking from the garden, and were always eager to be sent out to find more.

Amazing harvest. AMAZING.

We also introduced our friends to the Geocaching game. We had brought a travel bug we had found in Waconia, and deposited it in a little town 20 minutes northwest of Vining. The kids found the first cache site before I even could figure out how to turn the handheld GPS device on:

The second cache was a bit trickier, but we did find it after taking some cool "touristy" photos:

The kids snatched a purple bead necklace from the cache, and left a pink motorcycle in it's place. The real fun followed: as they were deciding who should get to keep the necklace, Jonny threw it "accidentally" up into a tree. The next 20-30 minutes were spent trying to get that thing OUT of the tree. It began with throwing shoes. Without consistent accuracy, an empty Cherry Coke bottle filled with some driveway rocks was used(Lisa is so smart!). Lisa and Benjamin had the best aim, and even hit the necklace a few times, high up in the tree, even once knocking it down a branch. The kids were running around, giggling, taking turns throwing, and having a great time despite the cold winds by the lake. The adventure came to an end when the Coke bottle actually got stuck in a neighboring branch. In the tree remains our treasure. Rats.

We found the third cache easily, then headed back to Lisa's for homemade hot chocolate and marshmallows.....because it was freezing....we were freezing...and this was our second day of the trip enjoying hot August!

And then the kids worked for their dinner:
That's the very least we can do for all the gifts their family shares with us!