Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

End of Summer 2014

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Wow does time continue to fly. The summer was great but gone in a blink.

Through a screen and a bit blurry but this goldfinch is a good memory of summer before the snow hits soon enough.


Megan’s hard work earlier this year is paying off! They taste so good straight from the garden.


Beth is feeling bad that she hasn’t aged nearly as well as I have…sore topic for her…don’t bring it up.


Our annual trek to Grand Marais. Gooseberry Falls is one of our first stops – can’t break that routine. We skipped Betty’s Pies this year and ended up paying $25 for a pie in Grand Marais. It was good…but not…well, maybe it was.




I keep picturing a scene from Fantasia with Mickey commanding the water to rise and splash. Christopher the powerful sorcerer making the water rise up and obey him!


Colleen kept saying how comfortable this was and that we should try it. Uh…no.


Love that view off of our balcony. I think I like the weather better on days when it is overcast and a bit dreary…great memories of similar days in New England.


Artist’s Point. Here comes the water…




Check out the flags blowing straight out…a very windy day in a very cold lake. I wonder how come no one else was playing in Lake Superior. Hmmm…could it be common sense?







Did I just do what I think I did? Or is that hypothermia setting in?


Love it! Sisters having fun and bonding – memories for a lifetime.


While his crazy sisters were dunking themselves he was filling the lake up with rocks. For as many rocks as we throw it is amazing that the lake is still there. Megan learned to skip rocks this year…and the science behind it has me baffled. She throws them slow…and I’m not sure that they spin…and the angle is all funny…but somehow she consistently gets several skips.


Momma’s favorite waterfalls (so…is it really one waterfall or should it be one waterfalls?). We waved at some Canadians on the other side of this river that borders the countries.


My girls.


A beach with awesome rocks behind Nani-nani-boo-boo lodge.


Crabs? Sharks? Alligators? Watch those toes Christopher!



We were on the path to faith and joy – exactly what I was looking for on this journey.


You know how you press the timer button on the camera and then have that panicked run to join the family as fast as you can for the picture? I knew the rocks that I would be sprinting across were wet…but I had no idea how slippery they were. Almost lost it for the sake of this picture but I recovered and still managed to get a smile in.



Judge C. R. Magney State Park – one of our favorites.


Peeking out to see the Devil’s Kettle. We met two guys who had to be at least in their 80’s if not older out there hiking. Incredible to see them walking that far and then up and down 200+ steps.


Getting up for another sunrise. I really liked this single cloud that was also waiting to see the first rays of sunlight.



What shape is the sun in your world?


I’m no bird expert but if your beak is pointing in two different directions then I think you are pretty much screwed. This bird would let you come right up to him – maybe hoping someone would pop his beak back into place – I wasn’t going to be the one to attempt that.


Last shadows before the sun rose even further.


One of the fishing boats was leaving the fish market right after dawn. The noise was incredible – every single bird was shrieking and diving and circling. They followed this boat all the way out to sea (lake) until I couldn’t see the boat any more. I loved watching that.


Scorpion at Artist’s Point


Angry Trout – one of our favorites – yummy! Their chowder is out of this world. Megan and I can’t get enough of it!


Whoa – what’s going on there.


Quack, quack.



Here’s my Hulk moment. Sometimes I have to let that rage out!!!


Dude – that moon was incredible. We saw it the night before and dragged the kids out in their pajamas to see it…but by the time we got outside it was hidden behind clouds. But the next night it came back in full force. Wow. Amazing.


Diving in.




Here’s that annual picture – they haven’t changed a bit.


We spent the night in Duluth on our way back home. The Canal Park area is great – fun location, restaurants, shopping, etc. We ate chocolate, and got smoked fish and meat, and got great coffee, and even rented a 5-person bike to tour the area. Don’t ask how, but it took all of us half of our trip to realize that Beth’s steering wheel didn’t actually do anything. And once we figured that out she still couldn’t stop trying to steer the bike – heh heh – fun times!





Couldn’t resist taking a picture of this sign…hee hee…


Megan spent some of her $$$ from grandma and grandpa on a balloon animal making kit…here’s one she made 100% on her own the next day! It was a great trip and hopefully some of you can join us in a future year. It’s a great, relaxing, cheap, low-key vacation in a beautiful area of the country.


Summer – Part III (Maryland)

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

I think Megan’s face says it all. Swimming in Maryland is like swimming in Lake Superior.


I know, I know, I shouldn’t have. I’ll spare no expense for my parent’s anniversary. Happy Anniversary B & B!!!


Beach time!




Surf’s up!






Colleen walking down the beach trying to be as normal as can be.


Check out the mermaid! Name this movie…”New seashells?” One of my favorite lines from a Disney movie 🙂


Olaf gonna melt.



Serious face. Touching part of 911 destruction. We will never forget.


Poor Evinrude. Megan had this critter on top of her sand pile (look closely) but a wave came and swept Evinrude away. I didn’t see this part but Beth said Megan was chasing this disgusting soggy dragonfly in the water but she couldn’t catch it in the waves. A dad saw her chasing this and must have thought she lost her goggles or something so he put his hand in the water to grab what she was chasing. Beth said the expression on his face said it all when he picked up this nasty thing – ha! Serves you right to try to be nice and help my kids! 🙂





Beth chose the wrong seat at this meal. We went to lunch with Kate and had a fun time catching up with her. She chose a fun place to eat too!


On this trip we had crab dip, crab cake sandwiches, crab balls (those must have been some big crabs – yucka yucka yucka), crab soup (two kinds), and boiled crab. Yummy, yummy, yummy.


Learn English you dumbies. We’re smarter than you’re! Heh heh.


This is what I have written on my dream list for one of my recurring dreams, “See at least one sunrise per year. Sunrises provide a unique opportunity to show how the journey can be as fulfilling as the destination. This is about why I see the sunrise, and what I’m thinking about, and who I see it with, and the effort of getting up early and consciously doing this.” Colleen also wanted to see a sunrise this year. So…we made it happen! We got up at 5:30 a.m. and walked 100′ to the beach 🙂 The morning didn’t look so good at first.


Lots of clouds.


It’s early. Why did I get up so early?


And the sky wasn’t looking so good. Where are you sun?


But then things started to change a bit.


And then they changed a lot! This is what we got up early for! Boom!




Fort McHenry. Sod. Bricks. Big flag. Must have been cool to see that the flag was still there in the morning.





Inner Harbor.


It was really great getting to see Pam and Wally while we were on the East Coast. Fun conversation and cool seeing where they live.


Dragon boats.


What a depressing start to a journey across the country. Hey kids, only 2200 miles to go (on the SAME road!).


Megan using her new birthday gift for hundreds of miles across the country. Thank you B & B! 🙂


We always plan to order Chicago-style stuffed pizza while in Chicago. I was honestly really trying to be a good dad and order a fruit pizza from the menu. It sounded very fruity with fresh fruit and maybe a little healthy after a week’s vacation. So…I place my order and it was hard to hear from a cell phone in the hotel’s lobby. The lady read it back to me and I said to Beth, “I don’t see s’more pizza on the website but I think she might have said “s’more pizza”. I checked the web site again but didn’t see it so we chalked it up to me mishearing it. Uh…we definitely didn’t get a fruit pizza…and I ended up getting more votes in my favor for Father of the Year from the kids 🙂


Summer – Part II (Washington, DC)

Monday, July 28th, 2014

How do you know when you’ve officially entered West Virginia? Uh…somehow you just know. And just when I couldn’t think of any great birthday ideas this truck shows up in front of me. We stopped at the West Virginia University exit. We didn’t go see the campus but it looks like an absolutely beautiful area. I have on my bucket list to attend a football game so I can sing John Denver’s Country Roads at the top of my lungs. Who’s with me? Isn’t that song & video great? Love it. On a related note, we had an agreement that we could only call Beth “mountain momma” while driving through West Virginia. But y’all can call me mountain papa or big daddy whenever you want 😉


Hey mom. I’m not 2 years old. I don’t get excited by over-sized, light-up, pastel glasses. They looked absolutely ridiculous. They weren’t functional. The flashing lights were a little much. I would have assumed you know me and my style after all these years but I guess that is too much to ask for. And the biggest disappointment with these glasses…is that they don’t even play Happy Birthday when I push the button 🙂

Maybe I was a bit too harsh…I know it’s shocking but we’ve already used those glasses at our next birthday – we’ll try to give them as much use as we can! Remember when Beth used to take her time and make such beautiful cakes – look what child #3 gets (kidding of course, Megan, Colleen, and Molly (summer nanny) made this birthday brownie thingy that tasted yummy).


We started our trip in DC by having an intern give us a tour of Congressman Erik Paulsen’s office and of the Capitol. He wasn’t in his office so we got to take full advantage of taking pictures and sitting in his desk. Sitting in that desk, his job didn’t feel all that hard yet – we could get used to that.



At one point we were looking for Christopher and I think it was Colleen who said something like, “check the ground – he’ll be sitting somewhere”. Sure enough, that was typically the easiest way to find Christopher. His rear-end touched more of Washington, D.C.’s sidewalks than some people’s feet will ever come in contact with. Washington, DC is definitely a walking town and all three kids were absolute troopers on our daily excursions.


How rude for some old dude to be handing out papers or whatever he is doing in that painting while Megan is trying to get a high score. I know Megan is photogenic but I was shocked at how many people were taking pictures while she was there. Give her some privacy people.


Distract the kids with obstacles (or frozen lemonade) to get from one point to another.


Foreground: some building; middle: another building; far away: pointy building.


Another building.


A few of my lovely ladies enjoying D.C.


Time to act goofy while away from buildings and walking.


Lots and lots of money at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.


The face Megan can’t help but make when she is around lots and lots of money.


Whoa – big money.


Error message my dumb computer gives me when I try to open up the previous picture of big money. Uh, yah, I’d like to photo shop this gigantic $100 dollar bill that I’m sure has all of the security features included in it so I can make millions printing copies on my home printer. Is it really that easy once I figure out how to open this in photoshop?


Christopher next to stack of shredded bills. I know it clearly shows he’s worth 1.3 million but if anyone wants this kid for 1.2 or 1.1 let me know and we can work something out.


So we toured the Capitol in the morning. Great tour by the way. Interns rock. While we’re there they say that there is a vote this evening and that kids under 12 can go on the floor and help vote. How cool is that? Sign us up. Biggest problem is that we were at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for a 4:30 tour and had to be 2-miles away at 6:10 for the kids to participate. So we finish looking at money and start walking and looking for cabs. And walking and looking for cabs. And more walking, and no big cabs to be found (no cabs at all to be found). Finally, about 2-3 blocks from the Capitol, Beth hails a cab and we very thankfully ride just those few blocks in air conditioning to arrive exactly on time. As I said before, the kids were absolute troopers as we rushed from here to there. Christopher and Megan got to go on the house floor and hang out with Erik Paulsen, and hold the gavel, and help vote, and walk all around, while the rest of us sat and watched from a balcony with no cameras (they didn’t joke around about security). Erik Paulsen was awesome. Very friendly and great at conversation. They said the kids would be on t.v. Well…I guess that’s true…if you know what your kid was wearing that day. I circled the kids so you can help see them – both Christopher and Megan are circled. They are near those big chairs where people fall asleep on national television while sitting behind the president. Christopher’s head is between the “S” and the “N” and Megan is to the right of 54 and 35 on the screen. Voting was complete chaos. No one listens. No one pauses for anything. Talk talk talk in little cliques. We did see some fairly famous people – I only recognized the mean men though.


And just when we thought this was all done…we hear what sounded like a witch’s cackle behind us (I swear I heard, “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too”)..and sure enough, Michele Bachmann is on the steps above us saying what a good looking group we are and that she just knew we were from Minnesota. I held my kids extra tight and tried not to look directly at her (I’ve seen Clash of the Titans, I know what can happen). And then…when we thought it was all done…Erik Paulsen leads us outside (until this point we’ve walked back and forth several times underground to get to the Capitol). The interns seemed surprised that he would walk us back outside but as it turns out he was just leading us to a cool photo op. Cool dude – but did he do enough to earn my vote despite where he stands on many issues?



Pointy building.


Another building.


Water and a building.


The highlight of Christopher’s day (and definitely a highlight of my day – love his smile and laugh and energy). Standing over a hot air vent shooting hot exhaust into the air and watching his hat get launched way up. Ahhh…good times in Washington, D.C. I remember doing the same thing with a vent and pieces of paper while waiting in lines in the huge lobby with high ceilings to go up the World Trade Center as a kid in New York City.



Pointy building. It is the tallest obelisk (tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top) in the world. For five years it held the record as the world’s tallest structure, but it was surpassed by the Eiffel Tower in 1889. Glad we didn’t read this article beforehand (that one of the rangers hinted at while we were waiting for the elevator: yikes).


Backyard / house.


Backyard / house.


We had a great time in Washington, D.C. Two days was plenty of time. Sure, we could have seen more, but this was enough. Arlington would have been nice. Or Mount Vernon. But not with kids – at least not with an 8-year-old 😉 The area we stayed at in Alexandria (Old Town), Virginia was great. King Street was awesome (despite a little bit of rain). Tons of cool shops and places to eat. It was great seeing mom and dad too. And being together for some birthdays. That time goes way too fast, huh?



Summer – Part I (pre-DC)

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Can you believe the summer is already more than half over? Insane! We finally wrapped up spring sports, just in time for fall sports to start! Megan really wanted to try softball. Ok, check that off the list, let’s go back to soccer 🙂 I loved the name “Pearl” on her team (you can see her sitting on the bench). And Pearl looked like she has been waiting to play softball her whole life. Megan had some fun playing but it is a lot of standing around, and kids pitching in their first year can be rough (although some of the coaches didn’t pitch much better – shhhhh, who said that?).


And Megan wrapped up soccer too. I loved that at the end of each game all of the parents on the sideline would put their hands out and the players would run by and give us all high-fives. And then right after that, win or lose, her team would make a human tunnel and chant “2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate…blue team, blue team”, etc. and have the other team crawl through. After they would do it then the other team would typically make a tunnel…you can see Megan just starting to crawl out of the tunnel. Fun stuff! Hope they stay such good sports in high school and beyond!


This is what Megan’s ceiling looks like every night. She really wanted this just this year and loves it. A bit unrelated but she didn’t have any good ideas for her birthday, but then she went to St. Louis for a few days. She came to Beth the second day there and said that she had been watching commercials (we don’t have cable so commercials aren’t near as fun) and that now she had some great ideas for her birthday! Ha! Fun stuff (how do our kids ever survive and have any hope of being cool without cable!?!?!?) – needless to say a wobble ball and an air power soccer disc are on their way to our house as we speak.


I know you probably can’t tell what these pictures are but I recently had a meeting at a fire station a few cities away and on their wall are pictures of one of my first big “real” fires almost 15 years ago. It was a bed/mattress store on main street of an older town (the mattress were getting hot and almost popping in the intense heat). I was on the roof of one of the buildings and in awe of everything going on around me. It was a huge fire scene that gutted the entire building and gave me some great experience.


So…you’ll never guess what I almost hit while driving to Kansas City. The most dangerous part about this was me actually trying to take pictures at 70 mph. It was funny because I could see the plane circling back around and then was realizing how close it was going to come. The plane was loud and right in front of me and I’m clicking pictures, but then I realize it is still loud but the plane is now way past me…didn’t realize I was driving on the rumble strip – ruh roh.


Beth drove to St. Louis. Left the kids there. I drove to Kansas City the next weekend. Met her p’s halfway through Missouri. Got the kids and we drove home the next day. I went to Kansas City to see Jackson Browne with Wendy and Kristin. It was an absolutely amazing show. We talked about the songs we wanted to hear beforehand and why they were important to us. I guess that could have been risky and a letdown had he not played them. But he played them all. Listening to For A Dancer again in his acoustic tour was amazing – and this time I felt like I could focus on the words and the power and meaning while there. Jackson Browne was crazy relaxed and talkative – it was a great time. He even played the country version of Here Comes Those Tears Again (which he co-wrote with his mother-in-law, of his wife who died of suicide). So much meaning in so many songs. He really did help me get through an incredibly tough first year without Katherine. He played so many great songs and made it fun and meaningful.


You know how I love my food. We hit three barbeque places in 2 days in Kansas City: Gates Bar-B-Q (how could I not go there with a name like that), Jack Stack, and another one that wasn’t as good. Here we are waiting for our cheesy corn bake and hickory pit beans.


Christopher was in heaven lighting off fireworks that papa gave him.


If the kids ask to borrow $599.88 DON’T give it to them. Any fireworks that explode, fly, or make people smile or even think about smiling are banned in Minnesota. No fun patrol is in full force around 4th of July.


Spring is sprunging

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Christopher is camping all weekend. Beth and Colleen are at a dance competition all day today (and by all day I mean from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.). So today is a special day for just Megan and me. She was so excited for it and even said it was like her special birthday. I got up early to play racquetball and when I got back at 9:00 a.m. I had to laugh because this note was waiting for me from Megan…hey, it’s her special day 🙂


That’s my daughter – making lists! And checking things off – I love it! She chose this outdoor activity working together over going to the movies – how truly cool is that?!?!? So great. We bought seeds and planted them already. Carrots. Spinach. And peas. Not many other things to plant this early. She’s been working hard. We even thatched a bit (pic below). We got all the outdoor furniture out, and brought in the Christmas lights strung through all our bushes way up on top of the hill in back. We also bought fish – some for the pond and some for her fish tank. And we got donuts. Not sure what else she has planned for us today – can’t wait to find out!


We had a nice Easter. Beautiful service and nice day. And lots of awesome food from all grandparents – everyone must be worried we’re not eating enough 🙂







And look who came back? As I’ve said before – it’s my Tony Soprano moment. I love when my ducks come back. Now if only we could keep Orca from the pond! Megan and I had another special moment this week when we got to watch 2 or 3 daddy ducks “wrestling” with mommy duck to show her how much they want to be with her. I know it’s normal activity for ducks but it always is such a violent exchange. At least they were on dry land this time and not in the pond. Now we’ll wait 22-28 days and see what happens. And I’m glad they stuck around even after it snowed again – surprised them and us.





And look at the new pillow we bought. Colleen has been working hard in school, dance, etc – busy, busy, busy and making us proud every day.


We had a great trip to the Kalahari for spring break. It was a fun time with lots of activities that the Great Wolf doesn’t have (although it was a lot more expense and felt like they wanted more money every time we turned around). Colleen brought two friends which was a lot of fun for her (and all of us). They had a great hot tub that you could enter indoors and then walk outdoors. And really cool water rides. Fun stuff.









The Kalahari had a candy shop with all sorts of fancy treats. Theirs were fine but nothing compared to the cool ones the kids made when we got home out of marshmallows, chocolate and icing. Anybody want to place an order for their next party? 🙂


How much would you give for this tooth? I’ve got it for sale on ebay – keep your fingers crossed. Only a few silver memories remain in Megan’s mouth from that dreaded first dentist appointment 5 years ago when she had 20 cavities. I still don’t think it was a coincidence that Beth had me take Megan to that appointment (whatever, I’m over it…almost).


And of course the Leprechauns visited us again for St. P’s day. Turning all our food green – grrrr. Good thing Beth loves this holiday so much or I’d have to set some Leprechaun traps to take care of them once and for all.



Taking advantage of one last snowstorm of the season. After this the kids wouldn’t go out any more – they were tired of snow and sledding and ready to get their bikes out!!!


Colleen danced at another Timberwolves game. Look front and center for her. Some dork in front of us was wearing a big fuzzy wolf hat. I took some amazing photos but they all turned out like this one – heh heh. But you can still see Robbie Hummel (Boiler Up!) shooting a 3-pointer. Speaking of Boiler Up! – where’s my dollar from Aunt B for Purdue smashing IU on Feb 15, 2014 with a win of 82-64? Was the margin of victory so high that you’re wondering if you should send more than one dollar? Been checking my mailbox every day for months now.



This was the first week of April in Minnesota. I love the snow – won’t catch me complaining. But finally a few weeks later all of our snow is mostly gone – there are still big piles near parking garages where the snow was piled up way high.


Are we still looking for signs everywhere that Katherine or others are watching out for us or trying to send us a message? I’m still not sure if Katherine is channeling her messages through Orca but here’s a message that was left for us in the snow 🙂


Or instead if I paused longer to look at photos like this would I see hearts and other signs everywhere in nature…


Mmmm…Grandma T chocolate chip oatmeal cookies! I was busy with the kids a few weeks ago and baked up lots of yummy stuff. And…for Easter this year I FINALLY was successful making Grandma T cinnamon rolls. They have never really turned out but this time they were amazing and so close to what they always used to taste like. Fun memories eating all of her cinnamon rolls over the years!


Intense video game playing underway…


Beth and I went to see Kevin Breel perform at a high school about an hour from here for a group working hard to Stomp Out Suicide. Kevin is known for his Confessions of a Depressed Comic TED Talk. It was good to hear his message in person and meet him afterwards. He is from British Columbia and got his suicidal wake up call on Feb 26, 2011 – interesting coincidences with location and dates while at a suicide event. It was an hour drive on a Friday night and we ended up getting to this small town early…so we checked out a small town Minnesota bar. I love bars like that…miss the days of playing pool and drinking nasty light beer in small town bars. We walked in just in time to enter the meat raffle (Ha! So who has no idea what that is and is thinking odd thoughts now???) Not sure that Beth liked the bar as much as I did…but I took a picture of their flyer in case our memories fade…was hoping we’d make it back for the naughty toga contest 🙂



Ok…where’s Waldo? See if you can find Christopher…keep looking.


Give up? Here’s your hint…


Feed My Starving Children. Easy. Fun for the whole family. Giving back. Good, good, good.


And look what else Megan and I have been up to…I was a bit worried when our first YouTube instructional video that was 19 minutes took us over 2 hours to complete…but since then we’ve been on fire and cranking these things out. Guess what everybody is getting for Christmas! 🙂


Ok. Gotta go. Take care everyone!

End of summer 2013

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Wow – where did the summer go??? School starts tomorrow!!! It’s been a really good summer – and we’re looking forward to a good year ahead of us.

Our biggest news is that Susana joined our family a week and a half ago. She is an intern with the Spanish school and is from Spain (a small village of 100 people but she has lived in a larger city called Soria most recently). She will be living with us until mid-February, and we are loving having her as part of our family. I’m sure she’s trying to look up what “redneck” means in Spanish…so far we’ve taken her to the State Fair, and to Friday Night Destruction at the car track (the highlight was a figure 8 school bus race), we sewed with glue (hee hee), introduced her to Kristin (one of my crazy college roommates), and we fed her food fit only for animals in Spain (corn – ha!). Fun stuff! We’ve also gone on a bike ride, and showed her Costco, cooked some Spanish treats together, and taken her to the Mall of America, and the Cherry on the Spoon, and to Beth’s lab, and had a small ice cream social at our house with our buddy (helper) families…all sorts of fun stuff!! And she hasn’t asked us to take her back to the airport yet 🙂 It’s been a lot of fun talking to her every day and learning about each other’s country – it’s going to be a great semester! And the kids are exposed to more Spanish which is also great.

A HUGE benefit of having Susana joining us is that we cleaned our house to a level we hadn’t done in 10 years. Bye-bye box of old trophies (Mom and Dad – Are you proud of me? Do I need a box of old trophies to get your love and support?). Bye-bye boxes of old cardboard for making cardboard tunnels in the basement (we made our last one to send the boxes out in style). Bye-bye load after load of toys and clothes and books and picture frames, etc to Good Will. Bye-bye bicycles and scooters and big wheel we left at the end of our driveway with a “Free” sign (draws ’em in like moths to a light!).

I don’t think I could ever get sick of trampoline pictures. They crack me up every time. Goofy poses and goofy expressions and big smiles and bouncy fun every time! Colleen’s aerial now keeps her nose 1-2′ off the ground, but they were a lot more fun to watch when her nose would almost scrape the mat. She’s worked hard on those this summer!

Got some hail! Haven’t had our house checked yet. Lots of people lost windows to their cars and had screen, siding and roof damage. This is the biggest hail I’ve ever seen. The kids had a lot of fun jumping on the trampoline when it was covered in hail. They would bounce and then try to catch hail in their hands when it bounced back up. It was insane when it was hailing to watch the hail hit the trampoline and the hottub cover and the ricochet every which way.

I led my last rocket launch for the scout troop (well…I still have all the supplies and haven’t officially handed it off to any else yet…who knows what will happen). We’ve got over 20 rockets in our house now! Wow – fun – zoom. Is this for the kids or me??? Both? Ok, fine – it’s all for me – and if the kids have fun then that’s just a bonus 🙂

Have you ever looked at those “wait for it” pictures online? You think you know what you’re looking at and then you realize there is more to the picture. Look at the picture that is mostly green with a tree and our yard – and the colorful birdhouse hanging from a branch. The birdhouse had several newly hatched, very chirpy baby birds in it – make a huge racket. Keep looking at the picture…what else do you see?

And we did our trip to Grand Marais again. It’s always great to go up there. It was just us this year. Great weather, great food, beautiful views, good hikes, and great time with all of us together. We went fishing and had worm races too this time 🙂 And lots of the World’s Best Donuts!! I got up to see two sunrises (Colleen joined me for one of them). The first several days were great – lots of hiking, and I jogged twice on the jagged rocks and rough terrain of Artist’s Point (Colleen joined me on one of those runs too). So we are always careful because it is so easy to fall or twist something – and I take pride in my coordination and athletic ability. So everything was going great…up until the day before we left…we just arrived at Judge C. R. Magney state park (where you hike to see the Devil’s Kettle). It’s a great park with a fun hike. I had just gotten out of the car in the FLAT parking lot…was putting sunflower seeds in my pocket and was looking up at Beth who was asking about sunscreen…and then I stepped in a rut and twisted my ankle. Pop. Man does that hurt and scare you. We watched my foot shake a bit for 5-10 minutes, saw it getting red, and maybe a bit bigger, but I decided we were there and it didn’t hurt(much) to walk on it…so we hiked…probably 2.5 – 3 miles total…with 200 stairs near the top leading down to the river (and of course back up when you’re done). Probably not the smartest decision I made that trip. We got home that night and my ankle was as big as a baseball…and then over the next day or two it turned some fun shades of purple. Three weeks later and it’s still swelling every day. Went to the doctor last week finally and they said it is just soft tissue damage…so it should all be good (the two 5k races I ran last weekend, and doing the state fair two days in a row probably didn’t help – that was my attempt to stay still). Enjoy the pictures 🙂

Apologies to everyone who has ever stayed in our basement. Don’t be jealous of Susana – instead, you should thank her for giving us that push to make that bedroom actually look like a bedroom!! Hope you like it 🙂 Maybe you can come stay in it sometime 😉

Megan eats way too much junk food and four of her teeth just fell out one morning. Roots and all. Darn orthodontist – you stop by just to say ‘hi’ and they find a gazillion things wrong with everyone’s mouth. Somebody gets braces in a week or two, too. Megan’s reward for getting teeth yanked was a fishing trip that afternoon – she caught 11 fish! Colleen caught 4 fish. Susana and Christopher didn’t catch any!!! Susana said the tooth fairy brings presents in Spain, so Megan was delighted to find a puzzle, a small air-rocket, and two other presents under her pillow the next morning – and she got to keep her teeth – lucky girl! She didn’t complain at all about getting them yanked and they said she was a perfect patient – awesome job Megan!

Ok – enough for now – best wishes for an incredible school year to all of the kiddies!!!

Pics, pics, and more pics

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

School dances,
U Can Danz dances,
mommy’s lab,
splits, splits, and more splits,
falling eggs,
new kung foo belts,
very long grass when we got back,
Schooner Days with fancy new Schooner porta potty! Just when I thought this fair couldn’t get any better they go and put a tarp over a bunch of biffies!

I think that pretty much sums up this post.

We had a GREAT trip. I can never believe how fast those trips go. We flew back and had an egg drop for the scout troop that same night. The baptism was great. Very proud and honored to be a part of it. So cool to finally meet precious little Aniston. Always great to see and talk to everyone – can never get enough and it goes WAY too fast. Start planning those trips to MN everybody so we can see more of you!!!

You get to play “spot the differences” in the photo of me and Aniston. I started out by removing some gunk and drool (from one or both of us), and then just kept clicking – I think there are at least 7 differences by the time I stopped spastically clicking. Hours of entertainment.

Four more days of school 🙂

April Fools Think Spring is Here

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Is it really spring? April? Really? 14+” of snow in April – 4th snowiest April on record so far! The pictures of pond and yard are from yesterday!!! And to think that just the week before our ducks came back!!! Love those ducks 🙂 Hope they unfreeze wherever they are and decide to come back. Kids are loving the snow – it was the super sticky, heavy, (back breaking – ugh), and great-for-packing kind of snow. They made snow castles, and also started tiny snow balls at the top of our hill, rolled them all the way down, and check out how HUGE they got!

Did I mention what stinkers my kids are? On April 1st they were home alone (it was the first day of spring break and both Beth and I went to work that day). I knew they were going to make brownies so I filled the brownie box with their socks and sealed it back up. Heh heh heh. That night when Beth and I were going to bed we found that all of my underwear was in her drawer and all of hers was in mine. Hee hee. The also taped the bottom of the mouse so it wouldn’t work and replaced the salt in the shaker with sugar. 🙂

We had a FUN, BUSY spring break with the kids. Beth worked most of it so I got to spend time with the kids for a nice change. We…went skiing (my office building is in the first row of big buildings behind the kids). I got the shortest skis I’ve ever had – 150’s and with the dullest edges ever – that made it interesting – good thing the hill is only 250’ vertical – the kids are all naturals! Ate at yo-yo donuts (skipped the maple-glazed bacon donut – maybe next time). Went to the art museum & did art scavenger hunts for prizes (that suit of armor Colleen is in front of is made of military dog tags – wow – powerful). Ate at VNAM (Vietnamese the kids love). Saw The Croods (movie – made us cry). Ate at Einstein bagels (Christopher’s choice). Went to the Water Park of America for an entire day. Ate at Rain Forest in the Mall of America. Surprised the kids with a trip to the circus (circus was cool, and pulling off a surprise that the kids loved was even cooler). Ate at Punch Pizza. Got hot chocolate at Caribou (Colleen’s choice). Went to Jump-n-Jam. Hmm…must be missing something…fun stuff!!!

I just got back from an awesome trip to Indiana. It was definitely with mixed emotions but it was so great to see everybody!!! It started with seeing the old (and I mean OLD – none of them have aged near as well as I have 🙂 ) college roommates (3 guys & 3 girls). They’ve really been there for me all year – hope they know how much they mean to me. All six of us ran a 5k race last Saturday on campus (and the $ went towards fighting cancer which was perfect). Purdue’s football coach and a lot of the football players were there along with the Boilermaker Special (big choo choo). The race started with the coach banging on the big (“World’s Largest”) Purdue drum…and we were off! I hung out in Lafayette for two days. We had a fun visit at Harry’s Chocolate Shop for several hours where the Baltimore Zoos were flowing – just like old times! A few of us did mini-Boilermakers (whiskey dropped in a beer) to celebrate new jobs for a few of the roommates (tradition!). It’s always great to be back on campus, especially at spring time – and was great all of the roomies could make it.

After Lafayette I drove to Rochester and spent a few days with my parents/Aunts/Uncle/cousin, cleaning up Grandma and Grandpa T’s house. Lots of stuff stored up in that house in the past 50+ years! Lots of good memories and stories and tears and laughter. Funny to see all of the old clothes, bathing suits, hats, bottles, papers, pictures, games, books, etc. that were found and of course some of which were tried on 🙂 We also found lots of chocolate in drawers…not sure what the real story is on that but I want to remember it with a smile as Grandma hiding secret stashes for herself all around the house 🙂 From the perspective of a grandchild, I spent a lot of time in that house and really tried to visit as often as I could considering the distance from where I lived. That house (and all of Rochester for that matter) was a special place for me where I knew I was always welcomed…something comforting and homey about sneaking into the candy dish, pulling out all the old toys and games from the cupboards, drinking out of the song or bird glasses, listening to the old records, eating mini donuts that were cut in half, walking to the dam, cinnamon rolls & oatmeal cookies, playing on the organ, and sitting on the stool at the end of the big table in the cramped kitchen, knowing that a game of Euchre could start at any moment. I have many fond memories that I’ll carry with me always. I’m glad while I helped I could share some great moments with my parents and others for a few days.

When I drove down to Indiana it snowed the entire time I was in MN and WI, and then rained in IL. When I drove back it rained, hard at times, and with many thunder storms, almost all the way through IN, IL, and WI, and then turned to 8” of snow by the end of the next day in MN. So I had two hands on the wheel almost the entire way home and was tired (mentally & physically). The next night I had to play in the championship game in the AA Racquetball League. Needless to say I had my excuses lined up in my head before the match started. I took the first game, I lost the second game and almost an hour and a half after we started (extremely long games that went to double-digits for both of us each game)…I barely won the 3rd game. My arm, shoulder, and back are still sore – but well worth it considering the outcome! After the game I drove home and THEN shoveled the 8” of wet, heavy snow from the driveway 🙂

Random pics with this post – I’m sure you can figure out which is which. Chicago-style pizza I picked up in Chicago while driving and ate in the car; view out of my office window – I could watch construction activity all day; fruit basket from Grandma & Grandpa – yummy (especially the chocolate covered pineapple but it was all amazingly good!); Christopher’s birthday (we just celebrated it yesterday by going back to the water park with only a few of his friends) – I’ll have to ask him birthday questions for my next post.

Ok…enough randomness for now. Hearts and prayers to everyone impacted in Boston.

We Need a Little Christmas

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

I had no idea Angela Lansbury had done anything besides Bedknobs & Broomsticks, Beauty & the Beast, and Murder, She Wrote – did you? 😉 Ok, maybe I knew a bit more but I really didn’t know much about Mame. I was listening to the Christmas station on the radio and was drawn to the words from We Need a Little Christmas. Maybe it had a different meaning in Mame but it sure seems to apply to how I’m feeling this year at Christmas…I really want to have a good, fun, meaningful, peaceful, reflective Christmas, and enjoy the times with family and friends – and I want that right now. It’s tough this year. But nothing is different for my kids – it’s just like any other year for them and we’ll have a fun Christmas – and I’m glad they will help pull me through it. Our tree is up, the stockings will be filled, I’ll have to buy a fruitcake to slice – and I’ll be sure to listen to this song a few more times (take time and read the words – I think they are just what many of us need right now):

We Need a Little Christmas

Haul out the holly;
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking,
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry;
So climb down the chimney;
Put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen.
Slice up the fruitcake;
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.
For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.
Haul out the holly;
Well, once I taught you all to live each living day.
Fill up the stocking,
Young Patrick:
But Auntie Man, it’s one week from Thanksgiving Day now.
But we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry;
So climb down the chimney;
Put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen.
Slice up the fruitcake;
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.
For we need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter,
And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after,”
Need a little Christmas now.
Need a little Christmas now.

Alright, time to talk about the pics. Follow along the best you can. I took the kids to see Eden Prairie play in the state championship (to the semi-final and final games). Eden Prairie dominated and won their 8th state title!! Skol EP! Colleen and Christopher brought friends and we saw many people we knew – it was fun getting out and cheering and letting the kids run around a bit in a semi-empty stadium (the games were played at the Metrodome where the Vikings play). Skol Vikings!

I remember how excited I would get to “paint” my dad’s face with shaving cream so I’ve let my kids do that from time to time. I love watching their eyes and expressions as they come at me with the shaving cream brush and lather up my face so carefully (ha!). They are so intent and focused – I love it. And Megan will soon outgrow it so I’d better let her do it a few more times!!

We got our first snow on Thanksgiving so the kids couldn’t help but run out and try to catch as many flakes as they could on their tongues. We had a good Thanksgiving – lots of great food and time to relax a bit. The kids have loved getting to smash ice on the pond again – the fun never ends. I’ve heard that’s bad on the fish (something about giving them horrible headaches – hee hee) but I hadn’t seen a fish in a while…until a week later I spied the fish in the photo at night swimming below the ice in the shallow part of my pond. Not sure what he was doing but glad he paused long enough for a photo op.

This is the time of the year when Colleen has several dances – we did the Gopher Women’s b-ball half-time, Gopher’s Men’s b-ball halftime, and then her recital at the high school. I do enjoy these programs now – her group is really good, plus I get to see some college hoops and walk around campus which is always fun. Can you find Colleen in the group photo? Hint – she’s the only one looking at me (not much help, huh). While we were taking photos a huge syringe walked by (the team the Gophers played were the Dayton Druggies and that was their mascot) and I found it funny watching it try to duck to get down the stairway.

I have always enjoyed traveling back to Rochester. Such ingrained memories from childhood of walking to the dam, hanging out at Grandma T’s and Aunt B’s, going to auctions, pizza parties with so many relatives, flag pole, etc etc etc. It’s always fun to see the kids asking to go the dam and then wanting to do the things that I always wanted to do. Mater was new to Rochester from what I remember – everytime I see a beat up old brown truck I always call them Mater so it was cool to finally see a real Mater. Loved it.

Miss you Grandma T. Yellow flowers will always bring up happy memories going forward. Driving home in Wisconsin the day of the funeral it was a clear night sky and I saw a shooting star right in front of me while I was driving. Thanks for saying hi Grandma 🙂

Check out the pictures of the cars. That was the day after we got a foot of snow. The snow covered the lines in the parking lot which apparently gave people permission to park however they wanted which included completely boxing people into parking spots with cars on all sides – the good news is that these same idiots can’t be out on the roads driving if I can see their cars all grouped together. Morons. And it’s crazy how one moron does it which immediately gives everyone else permission to turn off their brains too.

The picture of the snow falling in our driveway was the night after I hung up Christmas lights and cleaned out our gutters. Nice timing, huh?

December also brought us to a band concert for Colleen and Salvation Army bell ringing for Christopher’s scout pack (and Megan came too – she’s a great helper). We raised a lot of money – people seemed to be especially generous this year. Or maybe the boys got cuter? Or scarier? Whatever it was, it worked!

And here are some videos. The first one is the md-phd (Jakub) who is leading the lab that Beth is currently working in. He does amazing stuff for children with very serious genetic disorders. This video is one of his recent transplant patients for epidermolysis bullosa.

Jakub transplant patient

And here’s the video Beth’s team made for their final presentation for their cell biology class. You won’t quite get the full effect if you don’t watch it with Beth laughing the whole way through it. I must admit it’s still a bit hard for me to find quite as much humor in this as she does but I’m doing the best I can 🙂 Oh, don’t judge me until you’ve watched it! I’m not even sure that I’m smart enough to say that I’ve even learned anything by watching it more than once – I just hope her teacher lets her bring stuffed animals to her final test!

Beth’s cell biology final video

And finally, since I’m posting other videos…can’t remember if I’ve posted this one before or not but here’s another cake video that a friend posted. And yes, I know my own Grandma’s name 😉

Grandma T cake on fire

Back to School

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Can’t figure out why my head won’t stop spinning. Maybe it has something to do with…the kids are back to school. Beth is back to school. Retiring from the fire departmnent after 10 years (tough but the right decision as this point in my life after this crazy year). Soccer, football, dance, and scouts have all started back up. Pulled off organizing another successful scout rocket launch. Plus coaching soccer for Megan’s team. Wrapping up being a confirmation mentor this past year (yahoo Parker!). Working with another wish child (we reveal what her wish will be to her this coming Tuesday – with the help of a real life princess 🙂 ). Work is as crazy as always. Katherine and everyone else still on my mind a lot. Yah, maybe all that has something to do with my head spinning, huh?

We wrapped up July and August with a trip to Grand Marais with E & Wen (and family), visits from both sets of parents to MN, and then a quick visit by Kristin & Tom (and Big A) to MN for the state fair. Yummy cheese curds, buckets of fries, Sweet Martha’s cookies, cotton candy, juicy turkey sandwiches, milk, shakes, you name it – ugh, I’m still stuffed!

Grand Marais was cool. It was nice to go up with some good friends. It has been great to have people caring and looking out for us. It was supposed to be a different trip this year – that part of it was tough but part of the journey now. We had some great experiences with nature and I got up alone one morning to take in a beautiful, peaceful sunrise. That was E’s hope for the trip but the weather didn’t cooperate with him – the day after they left the sky was crystal clear and I enjoyed the sunrise and being alone at 5:30 a.m. on a huge lava formation by the great lake.

Beth and I are going to see Jackson Browne in concert next month. I really connected to some of his songs especially since March. “For a Dancer” is one such song that is hard but good for me to listen too. Come to find out that Jackson Browne’s wife committed suicide about the time this song came out many, many years ago (although I read that the song was written first). Crazy world. Here are those lyrics:

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must’ve always thought you’d be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found

I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening

I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round
Crying as they ease you down
Cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(Right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(There’s nothing you can do about it anyway)

Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone

Keep a fire for the human race
And let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know will be coming down

Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily, it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive but you’ll never know