Monday, June 28, 2010


Today Maddie came up to me and said, "I'm bored.  Can I make some cookies?"

Now, I thought these Bingo cards would hold off this statement.  But, then I realized that one of her squares actually said, "Bake/Cook something using a recipe you've never tried."  So, it's still coming in handy.

Anyway - we searched through a couple books for a chocolate cookie recipe with powdered sugar that she had in mind.  We found a similar one in a Mrs. Field's book I have - can't go wrong with Mrs. Fields.

First up was mixing the chocolate cocoa in.

Does anyone else see what I started to see at step #2?  A mess.  Cocoa powder everywhere. 

Maddie had never cooked with cocoa powder before.  So I told her she should go ahead and try it.  I's chocolate for goodness sakes.  [snicker...snicker]

I'm so mean.  But I enjoyed it.

Anyway - back to the recipe.  I was in and out of the kitchen; I had been playing the piano when she asked to bake and I had no intention of making these.  Only taking the occasional picture.

Maddie did learn what a whisk is and where it is stored in our kitchen.

I had moments of OCD while I watched the pile of "stuff" get bigger and wider.

And everytime we cook or bake together, there are always some trying moments when I have to show her how to do something, and then realize she's left handed and I have to do it backward.  We both get a little frustrated but manage to laugh it off.

Anyway - back to the cookies.  These were rolled and now that I look at the pictures, I realize they didn't look very appetizing when rolled up.

Or when put in the oven...

Or when removed from the cookie sheet.

It's just not an attractive color or shape to be honest.

This stuff helps:

Powdered sugar can fix anything.

Then it was the big moment.  Tasting batch #1 - and the results were:

10 fingers up!  I missed the "thumbs up" sign and when I went to get the shot, she upgraded her review.

Then she tried batch #2...

Shortly followed by batch #3 which was declared the winner of all by her. 

Honestly, I couldn't taste a difference between any of them.  All were slightly crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, and tasted of chocolatey sweetness.

And she not only bakes, but cleans up!

With these habits - and results - she can bake anytime in our house!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Today Marks....

*Two apartments (2.5 if you want to technically count the shady one we lived in one month before buying our first house).

*Two houses

*Two kids

*Two pianos

*Six cars

*Three grills

* One dog

*14 years with my best friend.

Happy Anniversary, Mike!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Road Trip - Father's Day Style

We didn't have much planned for Father's Day.  Despite my asking and tossing out a million suggestions to Mike, he didn't seem interested.  Sunday morning the kids and I headed to the Donut Connection and Caribou for a wonderful treat for all of us.

Let me just say, the night before the kids had asked Mike what he wanted for breakfast.  He requested donuts and said, "IF I got donuts, I would want an old fashioned glazed.  IF we got two donuts, I would also like a double-chocolate.  And IF we got three donuts, I'd like another double chocolate."  Jake leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, "Dad doesn't know it, but now we know exactly what to get him!"  Whew.  That mystery was over.

So, after our completely enjoyable breakfast we were sitting outside in the backyard.  I started tossing out more ideas after Mike said, "I just don't know what we should do."  I suggested a drive which he thought sounded great.  So, we loaded up the kids (who had grabbed a book as they know this involves hours in a car).  I drove down 212, Mike navigated and we ended up here:

I don't know if you can see that sign - it says "South Dakota".  The kids were wearing flip flops and refused to walk in the tall grass not knowing what creatures lurked there.  But they did think it was pretty awesome that we had gotten to a new state none of us had been in.

We stopped in Watertown, SD where we found the older part of town and ate at Dempsey's.  This was such a great choice!  Good food and a really fun atmosphere.  (And as Maddie said, "Of course we end up in an Irish Pub."  'Tis true...Mike and I gravitate towards finding these.)  It's a brewery too and Mike was able to chat with the owner/brew master.  We all drank root beer that was brewed right there and it was absolutely delicious.  We are hoping Mike tries a batch of root beer sometime soon!

We got home at around 6pm and Mike grilled some steaks.  He said it turned out to be a really great day which I was very glad to hear because for all he does for our kids (and me!) he definitely deserves it!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Horseback Ridin'

Note:  The following post is completely written by Maddie...enjoy!

For the first time ever I went horseback riding. No, not pony riding around a small corral but actually riding on a horse following a trail.  How did I get to all of a sudden?

Jake had gone to a Vikings game with Grandpa alone a few months ago. So since Grandpa had took Jake to a Vikings game he thought he should take me somewhere I wanted to go. I picked horse back riding since I knew Grandpa liked horseback riding too.

We ended up horseback riding at a place called River Valley Ranch. You ride with a group on a trail for an hour through woods and grass on a horse, NOT a pony.

A person who worked at the ranch called all of the people around us (about five people) to come into a fenced in area where the horses were. That just left us.

Lucky us we were assigned to a different group, a group with only three people, Grandpa, me and our guide, Sydney. The same person that had called the group before us asked us to come in the area where the horses were and asked how much we had ridden a horse.

Well, of course I hadn't ever ridden a horse so I told her that and lucky me again she assigned what now is my best bud Casper.

Clearly it looks as if he's 100 years old but that was the camera.

Anyways, some lady before had handed me some carrots to feed my new friend. Well, so much for those carrots because now I knew one thing; Casper does not like carrots at all. So instead I gave the carrots to Pebbles, Grandpa's horse who I think was to small for Grandpa. Here's my grade all in all for feeding horses food by hand: 0.

After about a million tries poor Pebbles who was getting very impatient by now finally got to eat the carrots, and I bet she was getting revenge on me because now I have a sore thumb because she bit my thumb instead of the carrot.

Finally we were able to set off with our horses, Pebbles, Casper, and Sarch and our guide, Sydney.

We were off and very quiet at first.  At times Sydney would point things out like how to move backward if your going downhill. Then came the woods and the incident with Sarch.

Let me tell you a little bit about Sarch. Yes, he seemed like he was big and buff, but actually he was a big scaredy cat. He was very frightened of puddles and the wind.  So all of a sudden as we start into the woods, me behind Sarch, Pebbles behind me, Sarch stops and Sydney has to get out of the saddle and walk Sarch. Meanwhile,I'm thinking that if we have to turn around because of Sarch I am going to have to stay here because I can't turn a horse around.

Finally we start moving again and at times Sarch would stop and back up. And the next incident happens with Pebbles.  Let me tell you a little bit about Pebbles.  She likes to trudge around and gets very impatient.

So as we were nearing the end of the woods I feel this big huge bump against Casper and Casper's head jerking up and I'm thinking hold on as tight as you can because Casper might rear.  Luckily Casper didn't because he's such a good horse.  Grandpa and I still don't know why Pebbles did that to Casper.

Next up we started nearing a huge puddle. Here was Sarch who I thought would just stop and not move but he kept going and surprisingly went through it with just a little hurry.Casper on the other hand had a mind of his own and decided to go through the grass instead of the puddle. I still think he's the smartest horse in the world because I would not have been able to steer him into the grass. Pebbles just followed Casper like there was no puddle next to him.

That was basically the end of our riding and as our group came near the area with the horses I bet Sarch was thinking that, "I'm done riding, yay!".  Me saying "thank you and goodbye Casper, I'll miss you!" over and over again, and Grandpa waiting patiently while Pebbles was going potty.

Getting off was a little bit embarassing. At the time I was thinking, "I'll jump off my horse and land feet first."

Wrong, I actually landed on my knees. I wasn't hurt but I got some grass and dirt stains, and yes I did check that I didn't land in poo.

As Grandpa and I headed back to the car I told him, "I'm pretty jealous that Kelly gets to go here a lot." And , "When I come back here I'm going to say can I have Casper and Sydney?"

So that was my first time riding a horse, no not a pony, a horse, a horse which is now my best bud.

Thanks Casper and Sydney!

And mostly thanks Grandpa for introducing be to a new friend, or I should say new friends!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Plans

I have been trying to come up with something that could keep our kids occupied for the summer and prevent the, "I'm so bored!" whines that had already been mumbled before school was even out.  I happened to read this blog where a woman (with five kids!) said she had planned summer bingo for her kids in prior years.

Basically she set up a bingo board each week with a different activity in each box.  When the kids got a bingo they got a ticket and tickets could be redeemed for special things.  The bigger the "special reward" the more tickets it required. 

I thought this sounded fantastic and after I downloaded her templates, Mike and I got to work coming up with some activities for the kids.  We wanted activities that were a form of physical "exercise", educational, artistic, chores, and just plain fun.  We also changed some of the rules she originally listed to go more with how our household worked.  Tickets can be taken away for bad behavior too.  If they complete the entire board within one week, they earn $2.

The kids will receive their new bingo boards every Sunday and they have to be completed by the following Saturday; boards can't be saved and worked on later.  All activities have to be approved by Mike or I and we are the ones who say when a sticker has been earned.

Maddie and Jake received their bingo boards yesterday.  They went gangbusters with it from the get-go.  By yesterday evening Jake was thrilled because he'd completed four of the tasks.  Maddie went to town this morning while Jake was at basketball camp and completed six activities.

This picture was taken this morning.  By tonight each of them had completed most of their indoor activities.  The darn rain is hampering their game!

Some of the activities are repeated every week:  they have to do a math worksheet and read a newspaper article to name a couple.  There's one "big" activity that they both have on their sheets so I've told them to make sure they compare sheets to find out what they can do together.  And there are some activities that require them to interact.  This morning Maddie asked Jake no less than five times if he could finally play a board game with her.  (She had a square that required she play a game with her brother.)  He was too busy completing his tasks.  BUT...he found one that required her help so they took turns "helping" the other. WITH.OUT.FIGHT.ING. 

[Cue the angels]

So we are off and running.  Maddie has already suggested some ideas for next week's card.  I've already created all the boards, but if they come up with some clever ideas, I'm definitely open to changes.

If you are interested in checking out our bingo cards, let me know and I'll forward our rules and cards to you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Well Deserved

It's official....

After 12 years, 6 months, and 24 days at Cargill....

After working since the age of 14...


Today was her last day in the working world and her department held a little "Bon Voyage" party for her.

The entire family was able to be there for her big send-off.  This included all the grandkids which she was extremely proud to show off. 

Oh yeah...and she introduced her actual children as well, though we hardly got the fanfare we deserved.

But I guess today wasn't about us.

Today was about celebrating the next adventure for someone who has worked incredibly hard since she was a teenager.  Who, I believe, graduated from high school and was working the next day full time to pay for everything she needed.  We celebrated someone who has given her all every single day she's worked and expects no less from everyone else. 

Her co-workers had incredibly nice things to say about my mom.  But I wasn't surprised.

Mom, who normally hates to speak in public, said a few nice words too.  My favorite were her parting words, "I'm going to miss you all.  But not too much."

Then it was really about the cake.  Or in the grandkids case...the cupcakes that held a sign stating they were reserved for the grandkids.

Obviously there was a grandma somewhere who put this party together...

But in all seriousness - I'm incredibly proud of my mom.  I'm incredibly proud of my dad and I'm thrilled for both of them as they step into full-time retirement.  I don't think there are two people who deserve it more.  I can't think of a single time growing up where both of them didn't have at least two jobs because there were lessons to pay for or things we needed - and occasionally wanted.  I would be hard pressed to name two people that have a better work ethic and who taught their kids what an honest day's work is. 

I can't say I've always been the best example, but I have the best example.

So, congrats mom!  This is a well-deserved moment in your life!  I'm pretty sure I can speak for all three of your actual children when I say that we are all incredibly proud of you!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

We've been in the throws of baseball season since mid-May.  This year Jake is playing in a league through the baseball association and Mike decided to help coach his team.  Both received a nifty hat and t-shirt for the games.

I honestly enjoy going to these games.  It's fun to see how the kids progress through the couple months they play.

I don't know that Maddie loves these games.  I don't think she hates them - she usually has a book in tow.  Tonight she alternated between being wrapped in a blanket reading and playing on the playground.

I think Mike is having fun coaching too.  It's something he's never done.  But he's been able to make some excel spreadsheets to keep the players organized; he's probably secretly thrilled about that.

We have until mid-July to attend these games so we'll keep our fingers crossed that Monday and Wednesday nights are cool and clear.

I'll also keep my fingers crossed that "Wally the Beerman" shows up.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's a Wrap!

That's it...the school year is finally over!

There wasn't really any screaming or yahooing when the kids got home this afternoon - but there weren't any tears either (which is exactly what happened last year three minutes after Maddie got off the bus).

We started the summer off right by setting up our "sundae bar" and enjoying a delicious dessert after dinner.  We went for a walk and followed it up by playing a game of "Apples to Apples" and laughed a lot.

They tried their best to fit everything fun into one night and suggested they stay up later than the 9pm we told them summer held for them.  They also lost out on having their own slumber party.  We told them that doing everything fun in one night would make the rest of summer so boring.

We sent them to bed with the thrilling news that they would each be spending quite a bit of time with me sorting clothes tomorrow for the garage sale next week. 

Wait until we tell them that Thursday involves sorting toys for the same thing.  They thought they didn't have any homework this summer....