Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 Week Seventeen - Nineteen | April 20 - May 10

As I started to work on week 17 for project life yesterday, I had a feeling of dread. I took a total of 3 pictures the entire week. And now that it's two months later, it's not like I can run and snap a few to add to it (motivator to stay current in PL perhaps...). Turns out, I didn't take that many more for weeks 18 or 19, so they actually all fit in a two page spread. Looking on the bright side, what normally would have filled three two-page spread takes only one, leaving more space in the album for other layouts, and allows me to get caught up that much faster.

Little Miss Annaliese had kindergarten round-up Friday afternoon.  She LOVED the two hours she spent with her future teachers and couldn't wait to share her projects with me. I sat through an hour parent meeting and thought to myself how much easier this is the second time around. How much I don't have to worry about things. How totally ready she is to go. 
I went mushroom hunting for the first time in my life that week. They were still pretty tiny, and blend in so well with the leaves. I was thinking there would just cover the ground, almost like plants in a garden. I didn't expect them to be so scattered and to really have to search for them. 
More mushroom hunting this week, only this time we got a haul and they're much bigger. Darrin breads them in saltines and cooks them in butter. I hate them (the texture is nasty and they're a fungus for goodness sake) and the kids taste for them depends on the day, so it's a lot for Darrin to eat on his own. 

Before shower shenanigans.

When not having screen time, and Ian's not busy reading, I can often find the kids sitting at their table playing UNO with TMNT cards. Just the two of them. They compare how many 'good cards' they got and often make up their own rules. Surprisingly, I don't hear arguing all that often. 
At the start of the week, the weather didn't look too promising, and it held true. We got some amount of rain each day.

Andrew Luck, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, held a Q&A session at Darrin's work. Darrin was then able to get his autograph and a picture with him (Darrin's work printed it there, and I'm too lazy to scan it. It will go in the album, though). 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

2015 Week Sixteen | April 13 - 19

Often, they spend many mornings in their own rooms, doing their own things (Ian-reading, Annaliese-playing). But some mornings, when I step out of the shower, I can hear them playing and imagining together and it brings such a smile to my face. They are each other's best friends, even if they won't admit it. 
First spring in the new house and I welcomed it by putting window boxes on the front porch railing. I failed to water them before we left for vacation, though, and now I'm crossing my fingers the flowers rebound, because some are pretty brown... 

Ian had his scarf ceremony on Friday night. He moved from a wolf to a bear in cub scouts. You can tell we don't deal with flames much here; he struggled to light the candles. 

Darrin went on stage with him to give him his badges. When all was said and done, the yellow scarf was gone and a light blue one in its place.  

We joined the public library in our new hometown this week. Not sure why we waited so long. We shouldn't have waited so long because Ian is going through his books from there like crazy. Now that we're a few months away from this, I can say that we usually go every Saturday, Ian checking out 5 or 6 books, and having most of them read before we go again the following week. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

North Shore Day 5

Today (Wednesday, June 10) we left the shores of Lake Superior to begin our drive home. We spent the night in Ashland, and after breakfast at the hotel, headed south to Cable, Wisconsin. My childhood best friend, Emily, is a naturalist and educator at Cable Natural History Museum.  The kids had lots of fun exploring the Lakes Alive! exhibit (as did I), and then Emily took us to a nearby lake and handed us nets. The intent was to use them to scoop in the leaves on the edge of the lake to find animals, but they also worked just as well for capturing dragonflies to take back and feed the birds at the museum.

This is Emory, a Great Plains Rat snake.  It's one of the many animals Emily uses for teaching at the museum.  

Emily asked the kids if they wanted to hold the snake. Annaliese held her arms out and held it for 1 second. I held it much longer.  
Hanging in the bear den 
Trying to catch dragonflies at the lake. They were EVERYWHERE!
We were digging in the leaves and muck on the edge of the lake to look for animals when I spied this frog. We found lots of little dragonflies in different stages of development and snails, too.  
Emily caught the frog for us and we studied it in the pail. In the ice cube tray are the snails, dragonfly nymphs, and other tiny animals we discovered. 
After a picnic lunch at the museum, we said our goodbyes to Emily and headed towards the Twin Cities. We had to make ones stop on the way, in Hayward at West's Dairy for some homemade ice cream. I didn't get a picture of us, because I was too busy eating and enjoying my ice cream. So many flavors, all made in store- exactly what I want in an ice cream place. After a stop their, we headed to the Mall of America to visit the Lego store, Nickelodeon Universe, and grab dinner. 

Creating their own mini-figures at the Lego Store. They both left with three figures and a set. Ian got another Ninjago set and Annaliese a Disney Frozen set. The first thing they both wanted to do when we got home was put them together.  

Somewhere on there, Ian, Annaliese, and I were riding the roller coaster. A very tame one at that. So tame, in fact, that Darrin offered to hold our bags because he would only go on something that did something cool. This one went fast and had a few hills. No loops or large drops.  Ian rode by himself and said it was awesome. Annaliese clung to me and kept repeating she was scared and asking if it was over yet.  
We grabbed supper at Hard Rock Cafe. Annaliese thought it was the coolest place to eat; she loved all the music they played and danced while she ate.  Then we headed to our hotel... which took three tries to find one with an operating pool, and watched the Blackhawks for the rest of the night.  

The next morning the kids swam in the pool and then we headed to visit Matt, Darrin's best friend, and his wife Heather. Figuring, rightly, that we would be sick of eating out, Heather had made some yummy chicken enchiladas for us and we caught up with each other before driving home. That's what the best part of this vacation was to me, catching up with friends we hadn't seen in awhile. Makes me want to repeat this vacation year after year, if only for that reason. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

North Shore Day 4

We left Duluth today and headed east to the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin. When originally planning this vacation, I had hoped to charter a trip to explore the sea caves there by kayak, but we were a bit too early in the season. Instead we took the ferry to Madeline Island, rented bikes, and rode to the state park. It was the only place we had to spray on bug spray the whole trip, but the kids had fun playing in the water and collecting more rocks. Ian was able to ride the 13 miles round trip all on his own, and Annaliese, after she adjusted to being attached to Darrin's bike and got over her fear of crashing, was able to give Darrin a break and do all the pedaling for them. The bike to the park was in the shade due to cloud cover, but by our ride back to town, the sun was shining brightly. The deer were also out in force as we saw four lone deer on our ride. We didn't get to see all the beauty the islands had to offer, but it was still a fun day of vacation (and a sore one... my butt still hurts just looking at the pictures).

Monday, June 15, 2015

North Shore Day 3

On Monday, we ventured north from Duluth, heading up old highway 61 to visit a few parks.  Our first stop was Leif Erikson Park and rose garden. The flowers weren't yet in bloom, but the park gave us a nice view of Canal Street.  

Our next stop was Brighton Beach. While Park Point beach yesterday was miles after miles of soft sand, this had beautiful rocks and stones. While the kids, and Darrin, threw rocks in the water (or attempted to skip rocks), I hunted for agates.  It's amazing to me that beaches 11.5 miles apart, on the same lake, can have such a different makeup, but that's how it was.  The kids collected quite a few rocks here to add to their collection to bring home (they began collecting them at the beach yesterday). 

After that, we drove north a bit farther to Gooseberry Falls State Park, to see the falls there. I swear, I could take pictures of waterfalls all day long. I love them.  There are actually five falls at the park, and it's impossible to get them all in one shot.  While we were exploring the park, we experienced a brief rain shower, but other than that, it was beautiful.  If the kids hadn't been starving, I think we could have stayed and explored so much longer (we ended up eating our picnic lunch in the car, as all the tables were wet...).  

What you don't see in this picture is that she had taken off her socks and shoes to put her feet in just below the middle falls, and was exclaiming about how cold the water was. 

Our final exploration was to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.  We were able to tour the lighthouse and attendants house. They were all built from beautiful yellow bricks.  We walked down a flight of stairs that followed the former tram line (they didn't have a road to the lighthouse, instead they brought everything in by boat and sent it up the hill via the tram), which put us at beach level.  Ian had fun doing what he's done on every beach- throw things into the water.  I was trying to get a neat picture, and as luck would have it, a big wave came up, splashed against a rock, and the spray soaked me.  Needless to say, I didn't get my picture but retreated to warm up by Darrin, who was snuggling with Annaliese.  

The stones that supported the tram are to the right of the stairs. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

North Shore Vacation Days 1 and 2

We traveled the eight hours to Duluth nearly straight through on Friday, stopping only for a bite to eat.  We had reservations that night to enjoy pizza while riding the North Shore Scenic Railroad.While it was a fun way to start our vacation, and the first ever train ride for the kids (not counting the train at the zoo), we were underwhelmed by the experience.  We thought, given that the word scenic is part of the title, that we'd see lots of beautiful scenery, but a majority of the trip was through Duluth.  And while beautiful, city buildings are not what I think of when I think scenic.
Waiting for the trip to start. 

Watching the engine drive past, attaching to what was the back of the train, to return us to Duluth. 

Looking at the scenery on the return trip.  It was after 8:00 and the kids were tired and ready for bed.

We opted to stay in Superior, Wisconsin, instead of Duluth, saving us about $100 a night.  Saturday morning we headed to the highest waterfall (165 ft) in Wisconsin, Big Manitou Falls, in Pattison State Park.  We lucked out in- it was guest appreciation day and admission was free that day.
At the top of the falls.  

The full falls.

What was amazing was all the water gushing down the fall went through such a narrow opening to the right.  The power and sound were amazing.  

At the rapids above the falls.  Our day was just beginning...

 After the falls, we headed to Duluth to climb the tower at Enger Park. We could see the tower every time we drove in to Duluth from the hotel, rising high above the tree line at the top of a hill. After we climbed the five stories, we had a beautiful view of Duluth.
There was a walking path to get to the tower, but the kids opted to do a bit of rock climbing instead. I ended up following them up and we all successfully made it to the tower.   

Standing at the bottom of the tower. 

Darrin's panoramic shot of Lake Superior.  The Aerial Lift Bridge is off to the left.  

 After the tower, we had a picnic lunch in the park surrounding it.  Annaliese got done first and enjoyed running around, peeking out at us behind things. There was a large gong the kids also had fun ringing.

 Following a picnic lunch, we met my childhood best friend at the Duluth Children's Museum.  We are members of our local one, and because of membership there, were able to get in free to this one as well.  While definitely smaller than our local one, the kids had fun nonetheless.
Sending each other balls back and forth through the tubes, propelled by air.  

Fossil Dig

Programming a space ship for space flight. 

 After a few hours there, we drove down Canal Park Street, having to stop for the Aerial Lift Bridge to raise and lower, letting the boats and ships through underneath.  The whole road is lifted vertically, keeping the road horizontally flat, and after then slowly lowers back down.
The large rectangle in the middle would be the road being elevated. 
At the end of the road was Park Point park and its sandy beaches. All afternoon the sun had been shining and the temps had been climbing. Not long after we got there, it started to cloud over and cool down, eventually starting to sprinkle.  Still, the time we had there was lots of fun.

 We grabbed supper at Duluth Grill, and after a busy day, we were all ready for bed, after a bit of swimming in the pool at the hotel. They were only begging all day to go...