Monday, June 27, 2011

The Mighty Mississippi

I cannot spell "Mississippi" without chanting it out in the rhythm we learned in elementary school:


Just a little useless trivia for you.

Everyone was excited to head to the Mississippi headwaters!  The kids thought it was awesome that we could walk across it. 

Let me say - those rocks are slippery.  Not mossy/slimy-slippery, just slippery. 

Kind of treacherous-slippery...

I watched those three head across first.  There were TONS of people trying to get by this little set of rocks and people were falling into the water or grabbing someone to keep from falling.  I just shot pictures.  The guy behind me dared me to go across the water with my camera.  Um. No.

Maddie and Jake were thrilled to make it across without falling in.  There was a little celebratory jump and high-five.

Then they walked down a little path on the other side of this stream/creek/river thing and walked across the bridge.

Much easier. 

The kids were excited when they realized I still wanted to walk across which meant they got to go again.

Surprisingly the water was not really chilly.  I expected extreme frigid temps.

We headed back down the path when we were through but decided to skip the bridge and walk across the mostly-sandy bottom that looked about mid-calf deep.

Except mid-calf for me and mid-calf for Jake are not the same.  There were a couple deeper spots that we didn't notice until too late.  The bottom of Jake's shorts retained a bit of water, but I don't think he minded.

But we, too, made it across without falling.

The kids were VERY excited when we told them they could head across by themselves. 

And despite the above pictures - still no one dropped in.

When we reviewed the whole trip, this was definitely the highlight for everyone!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fantastic Fifteen!

Today marks 15 years of married life for us!

For a little walk down memory lane I'm including one of my favorite pictures from our wedding...

David J Photography

This was immediately following our walk down the aisle together.  See that fist-pump?  Our 22-year-old selves.  It's about the only non-posed picture we have.  The "photojournalism" styles weren't popular back then.  Way back in the olden days.

15 years has gone fast and I love what we've built together.  We're best friends and teammates in everything and I can't wait to see what the next 15, 30, and 45 years hold for us!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Camping Part 2

We were able to see some sights in Itasca.  It was pretty and I certainly could sit out by the lakes for awhile and just enjoy the view and peacefulness.  However, the lakes were a little hard to get to and there wasn't a ton of area to just sit. 

Mike and I decided that while it was pretty, it was just so dense with woods that it was hard to enjoy much other scenery simply because it was hard to see.

Our first day we did rode around and stopped at some viewing spots.  We climbed down to the shore in a couple places as well.

Then we climbed back up them.

When we first arrived there was a sign that said, "Bear and Raccoon in the area.  Store food properly."  All throughout the trip Maddie and Jake were hoping to see THE bear and THE raccoon (apparently they only thought there was one of each).  We never did see those animals.  We saw these...swans???  That's what we called them.  Feel free to correct us.

We also saw a beaver.  Those things are huge.  No pictures though; I didn't have my camera with that night and for more reason than one I was kicking myself.

Next up for the camping expo is the Mississippi Headwaters.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Camping

The first two weeks of summer were quite busy here.  Or rather, not here, but everywhere else we were.  I had two weeks off from teaching and because he had a lot of vacation to use or lose, Mike was able to take off two weeks as well.  After our week in Iowa, we came home, packed again, and headed out for our summer camping trip.

This year we decided to head to Itasca State Park.  It seemed to have a lot of things to do when we researched and we thought it would be fun to see where the Mississippi began.

It was a lot in one trip, so we'll start today with the campground.  When we first arrived, Mike and I weren't sure our tent was even going to fit. 

These spaces weren't nearly as big as what we experienced in Gooseberry last year, but after a little rearranging, we were able to make it work.  Our space was much more "private" than many of the spaces in this campground area.  After seeing the open-ness of the other spaces, we all decided that we prefer to have privacy.  I guess we are hermits when it comes to camping.

As you can see, this year we brought our bikes with us and made good use of them!  There were tons of trails and the kids had a blast being able to hop on their bike to get places.  It was nice, but I can guarantee that it will be quite awhile before I'm heading out on another long bike trip.  I winced by the third day of getting on that contraption.

When we finally decided to "head home" after our day out, everyone worked to get the fire going.

The kids loved climbing through the woods to find twigs to start up the fire.  Unfortunately much of it wasn't dried enough so it took quite some effort to find those! 

Mike was a little frustrated with the wood we had to buy there; it always seems kind of wet and takes FOREVER to get fired up.  That first night Maddie and I let the boys handle most of the fire stuff.  Maddie entertained everyone by reading from her ghost story book.

Can I just say - there are some scary stories in there.  By the second night I told her enough with the ghost stories. 

Because the fire was taking so long to get going, Maddie and I were getting hungry so we busted out the remains from breakfast...

What's a camping trip without some delicious cake donuts from the Shakopee Donut Connection???  Can we rough it, or what?

Once the fire got going, the kids headed out to play and Mike was in charge of our burgers.

We decided to try some frozen patties.  Eh.  They weren't horrible, but they weren't anything I'd willingly choose again.  QUITE greasy that it left a small puddle on our plates that instantly hardened and I realized what it was doing to my arteries.  Blech. 

We did forget a couple essentials: a spatula to flip the burgers (we also left behind the ax he got for Christmas to take on our next camping trip).  Hence Mike was using the marshmallow holder things to flip the burgers.  He almost lost one through the grate, but being lightning fast with reflexes meant he saved it before it hit the flames.  The second night we had hot dogs which were SO much easier to make.  While I'm not a huge hot dog fan, I have to say that roasted over a fire, they are pretty good.  Way better than the burgers, that's for sure.

The rest of the nights we spent just sitting around the warm fire (it was chilly up there!) and chatting.  Once the fire died out around 10pm each night we were in the tent and sleeping. 

Morning came quite early with the birds.  Somehow we managed to go back to sleep after they woke up and get up around 8am instead.  Mike started our breakfast and we were surrounded by this pretty light while we dined on hot chocolate and pop tarts or granola bars:

We'll cover the sites a different day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Graduation Day

A couple Sundays back we were in Iowa for our nephew, Steven's, graduation.

It's official - he's a graduate...

Can I just say how disappointed I am that they didn't throw their caps in the air.  Don't they do that anymore? sad.

It took us forever to locate Steven after the graduation.  We knew he didn't have a ride home since he came with his family.  We didn't realize he wouldn't be by the car though until we walked all the way out there only to have Samantha remember that Steven wasn't actually with them when they parked.

Several trips around the perimeter later, everyone was together again.

Afterward it was back home to Grandma Murphy's house for some last pictures and a dinner together to celebrate.

Mike is "the Godfather".  (He looks too happy to play such a serious role.)

And the graduate with his proud grandma...

Steven starts college in August where he's working towards an automotive degree.  His dad is normally our "go-to-car-guy" so I'm sure Pat will be thrilled that we won't be bothering him for all the answers now!

Congrats, Steven!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The End

One more school year draws to a close today. 

Both kids have party days and "needed" a snack or pop or both.  Maddie went all out for the last day of school and actually forgot her can of pop.  She called about 30 minutes into her start of the day and asked if I could bring one to her before their pizza party.  Normally we don't even have pop in our house so I'm sure she wasn't going to let this opportunity slip by if at all possible.  So, on the last day of school, 2011, I had to drop something off at school.  Going out with a bang.

Yesterday was a busy day for both.  Maddie had a recognition program at school.  She received an award for her grades as well as a Citizenship award.  She was pretty excited to get both.

Two hours later we were at Jake's school for his Talent Show.  His whole class did a hand-clapping sequence which was pretty cool.

Jake was also selected to play the piano.  He played "Railroad Boogie" which is basically "I've been working on the Railroad" set to a boogie style.  Kinda fun!

Back story:  He had to audition for it.  He was all set to play his recital piece for the audition and when he sat down to practice ONE HOUR before the audition he decided he wanted to play this (which was his original choice for the recital and it was NOT ready for public performance that night).  For the recital he REALLY wanted to play the boogie and his Fiesta piece but his monster of a piano teacher I wouldn't let him play two fast pieces.  This resulted in tears and sobs and he started practicing this railroad song to play for the audition.  At 5:15pm (his audition was 5:35) we had this conversation:

Jake: "Mom!  Can't you help me!" 
Kerry: [calmly] "What exactly would you like me to do?
Jake: "Help me fix this!" 
Kerry:  "We are leaving in 5 minutes.  I'm not a miracle worker."
Jake:  "Just tell me what to do!!"
Kerry:  "Fine.  Calm down.  That's my advice.  You need to calm down and you'll play it fine."
Jake:  "No....that's not the problem..."

I called it quits at that and told him to pack up to leave.  He auditioned with the railroad song.  Walking out he said, "You know, mom, that actually was pretty good advice.  I think I just needed to calm down."  When we got home I told Mike there was no way he was going to make it.  He did okay, but I knew he could have played it better if he'd practiced all along like I'd suggested instead of just 45 minutes beforehand and between sobs. 

Wrong-bongo.  It was like a Disney ending on a Grimm's Fairy Tale.  He got in.  He was excited.  I was happy for him, but I told my dad I also wasn't.  That's not how this "life lesson" was supposed to turn out.  But, he practiced much more consistently before the actual Talent Show and he did a great job on his piece. 

Anyway - today is about the parties I guess and in a couple hours they are home for the summer.  Ready or not, here it comes!