Monday, August 31, 2009

Fourteen miles

On Sunday, I asked the girls what they wanted to do as our family activity. They chose going for a bike ride on the Central Lakes Trail. Unfortunately for Steve that means putting the bike carrier on the van hitch and strapping in our four bikes, one-by-one. It takes at least 30 minutes to complete the task, so we always try to make it worth his effort.
Our family has been biking on the Central Lakes Trail since Abby first learned to ride bike. In the past 5 years, I have never once brought my camera along with; however, in an effort to keep our family activities carefully documented and brought it along this time. OK, I admit it, I basically needed some blog material so I brought my camera along to capture the moment.
Sunday afternoon the weather was 73 degrees and what I consider perfect t-shirt weather. The sun was shining and there was absolutely no wind. Many times, we get out to the Central Lakes Trail and have to contend with a horrible headwind or a strong tailwind, which greatly reduces the fun-factor for everyone. We have also been rained out several times, which tends to raise the whine-factor to the point that I don't want to go back for a long, long time.

We started at mile 184, which is right near the DeLagoon Park access. I couldn't believe how perfect the weather was. As usual, Steve and I each pair up with one of our daughters and ride two-by-two. I started out next to Kippy and together we pointing out everything interesting that we saw. Kippy noticed all the deer deposits along the trail as well as the dead vole and squished frog. I happily pointed out a hawk, the beautiful scenery and every time I saw some red foliage. I would shout out "I see Fall.", which was so much more pleasant than Kippy shouting out, "Poopie!"
It didn't seem long at all and we had already gone 7 miles, so we decided to turn around. On the way back to the van, I biked next to Abby and we talked about her upcoming start of 7th grade the next day. It actually was a really profound mother-daughter moment. It reminded me that we just don't have those types of conversations where we can truly talk about the important stuff when we are distracted at home by the TV, Computer or Wii.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon on the Central Lakes. The fourteen miles were fantastic! Glad I brought the camera along and so thankful for Steve going through the loading and unloading process 2 times for us.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Front yard facelift

Although I have never had a face-lift (at least not yet{wink,wink}), I imagine a face-lift to be a painful process. The face-lift that our front yard has recently gone through has been very painful. Over the past three years, one of our beautiful maple trees in front of our home has been dying a slow and tragic death. When we first noticed that our tree was having problems, we called the county extension agent and had him come and take a look at it. The prognosis was not good. The root system was damaged and we would eventually lose the tree. We have watched as each year more and more branches have died. Finally, we were forced to make the tough decision to have the tree removed, forever changing the look of our front yard.
Here we are almost exactly 7 years ago, when we moved into our house. Notice the huge lush looking maple tree on the left? Oh, yes, the tiny people on the porch represent us back in the day and yes, Kippy is just wearing a diaper, I have no real explanation for that.
Within a month or so of moving, we were amazed when our maple tree turned a brilliant shade of orange. It has been the backdrop of many pictures over the past 7 years.
Um. Yeah. I don't have a really good explanation for this picture. But for some reason, I thought this tree was so wonderful, I stuck my poor 5 year old and 2 year old baby in it for a picture shortly after we moved. I would like to think that there was some soft cushioning to protect them if they fell, but of course, I can't be bothered to think of safety and left them dangling there while I fumbled with my camera. Please don't judge.
Look they are safely back on the ground again! And oh so cute and tiny hugging the big tree.
Fast forward 7 years and although our maple grew in diameter and height, it has been reduced to a skeleton with very few living branches. Pardon me while I mourn not only the loss of our tree, but the loss of my children's babyhood {sniff, sob}.
So, what am I to do? How can I immortalize this once magnificent tree the night before it is chopped down? I encouraged my children to climb up into the tree one last time for a final picture. ("Encouraged" is another word for hoisted-them-up-into-the-tree, right?)
Kippy still marches to her own drum and would only swing like a monkey for me.

And then our beautiful tree was no more.

Its once lush branches were reduced to mulch within minutes.

All that remains is a dark spot in the lawn where a majestic, 18-year-old maple once stood and selflessly offered its shade and beautiful orange leaves to us.
Queue the music "Seasons in the Sun", while I sob.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Picnic at the Peak

Saturday morning, I told Kippy that I think we should go on a picnic since it was going to be such a nice day, but I didn't know where we should go. Kippy immediately said, "Inspiration Peak!!" It sounded like a great place to me.

We began gathering our supplies: blanket, water bottles, hiking backpack, camera and of course, yummy picnic goodies.
Fresh garden tomatoes and cucumbers with dill.... I was in HEAVEN! And juicy sweet watermelon for dessert.

Amazingly, there was no wind and very few bugs.

We watched other people try to get water out of the pump, but Steve was the only one who was successful. Something about momentum... I just enjoyed the gun show while Steve helped the girls wash up the dishes at the water pump.
Bella was a good little princess and stayed right on our blanket until we went hiking.

Steve was studying the caches that I had printed out. We were looking for two geocaches at the Peak. One was a virtual cache where we just had to find the answers to three questions, which meant the kids had to make sure to read all the signage.
As we were getting ready to leave Inspiration Peak, Kippy exclaimed, "This is the best Saturday ever!"
We stopped in Battle Lake to find one more cache and also to treat ourselves to ice cream at Ganny's Panties. As we were driving back to Fergus Falls, Steve told Kippy, "Enough with the repetition!" because she was annoying him by repeating the same thing over and over. Kippy replied, "I'm in a good mood. Don't ruin it." That cracked me up. Kippy was on a high that her great idea of a picnic at the Peak worked out so well and nothing was going to dampen her good mood.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Followed on the heals of Wordless Wednesday, here is my first installment of "Thankful Thursday."

Salena, using her ninja skills, dropped this beauty off on my front door knob unexpectedly this week. If it wasn't for a UPS delivery, I have no idea how long it would have been there! Thank you for the super cute addition to my "R" collection, Salena!

I was the very lucky recipient of this Pay to Forward gem from my talented friend, Lori.
I love the colors and it really brightens up my office wall. Can't believe two additions to my "R" collection in the same week. So thankful on this lovely Thursday!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Keep On Trying

A few weeks ago, Kip wanted to try to water ski while we were at Maple Lake. The only skis available for our 8-year-old to try skiing with was adult sized skis. Denise did some land instruction with Kippy before she tried it in the water.
Keep your body in the straight back chair position.
Let the boat pull you out of the water and keep your straight-back-chair position until you are all the way out of the water.
Hold your skis about shoulder width apart and don't let them wobble back and forth.

First, Kippy tried about 5 or 6 times with Denise giving her instructions in the water, but her legs were not strong enough to keep the large skis together. She kept a great attitude and after everyone warmed up, she wanted to try again.
This time, Steve and Lance went in the water with her and they tied the two skis together to help stabilize her.
Oh, here she goes....
Despite numerous attempts, she was only able to get up for a few seconds, but kept trying until she was just too tired. Lance and Denise were so patient with her. After each attempt, the boat would have to be circled around; the tow rope pulled in; throw the tow rope back out; get Kippy lined up again and give it another try. Hopefully, by next year she will have enough leg strength to get up on the skis.

Kippy, don't ever lose your willingness to persevere and keep on trying!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Our Vacation Highs, Lows & Learns

The Bytnar family introduced us to a fun dinner-time tradition called High, Low, Learn a couple of years ago. It is a great way to get conversation flowing at the dinner table. Each person at the table gets to share his/her "High" for the day, "Low" for the day, and "Learn" for the day. If you have the same High, Low, Learn as the person who spoke before you, then you need to try to state it in a new way (no copying). We have made a few adaptations such as saying "Marco-NO low" (think Marco-Polo) if you had no low for your day.

Just like regular life, we had some ups and downs on our 1 week family vacation. So I thought I would share my version of High, Low, Learns from our trip.


  • Hiking to the Minnehaha Falls: Hard to believe there is such natural beauty right in downtown Minneapolis. Thanks to Denise & Lance for the recommendation!
  • ValleyFair: Steel Venom was my favorite ride followed closely by the Power Tower. 12 hours of adrenilin rushs and super expensive, but delicious junk food!
  • Special time with extended family: We were able to have some one-on-one time with Uncle Ralph and Aunt Syrie, which we haven't been able to do in several years. They really are a wonderful couple. Additionally, we got to spend time with our cousins, Paul & Nikole Rutzen & family both at Valleyfair and at their home for a delicous supper. We feel like kindred spirits and the 2nd cousins get along so well, too.


  • Didn't bring the right lens for camera to ValleyFair. I bought a new zoom lens which has a 200 mm focal length 2 days earlier, but in the mad dash to get on the road I left it at the hotel when we went to ValleyFair. Of course, I didn't notice it until we got to the gate, so had to work with my 50 mm lens only. Great for close-ups but {sigh} wasn't all that I wanted. At least I didn't run out of batteries!
  • Victors 1959 Cafe was way better on Food Network then in person. The coveted Cuban style MEAT sandwich looked so delicious on Food Network's Diners, Drive-In's & Dives but was a disappointment in real-life. The atmosphere was very unique (a little crazy) and the food was good. I think we had just build up too high of expectations.
  • Make sure you are at the right hotel before you unload the car. I navigated us to the hotel I thought I had reserved, but after the receptionist couldn't find our reservation, I pulled out my printed confirmation and realized, we were at the wrong hotel! 15 extra minutes to re-pack the car and get us to the right place almost made us late for the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. MY BAD!
  • The girls and I LOVED the American Girls Place at MOA, but I am going to go out on a limb to say it was probably Steve's LOW for the trip. However, he was very tolerant and didn't say a word that it took the girls over an hour to pick out what they were going to spend their hard earned cash on. Wish it wasn't so expensive there!

  • Drive time on the way home was down right miserable. Even with a traveling DVD player to occupy their time, the girls were extremely argumentative on the three hour trip from the cities back to Fergus. I am thinking too much togetherness and sleep deprivation were to blame. Not a fun way to end the trip, that is for sure!


  • The Titanic was a magnificent ocean liner and horrible tragedy as well. The exhibit at the Science Museum was personalized by assigning each of us with a boarding pass of an actual person who was on the Titanic. At the end of the exhibit, you could read and find out if "you" survived. Steve (1st class), Kippy (2nd class) and Abby (3rd clas) each survived, but I (3rd class) didn't and neither did my husband or my NINE children.
  • The last available booth in the very back of the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in the left-hand corner is still a GREAT seat! We absolutely loved the performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Even though we didn't have premium seating, we all could see and experience the show. The girls were singing some of their favorite tunes every time we were in the car for the rest of the trip.
  • Motion sickness bands work fabulously! With endorsements from both Kathy and Sherri , I should have known they would do the trick. Abby gets "emotion sickness", but she went on all almost every ride at Valley Fair and did just fine. She opted out of the Flying Trapeze and The Monster... too much spinning, but hey, no mini-donuts ended up on my feet (inside joke).
If you try HIGH, LOW, LEARN at your dinner table, let me know how it goes!