fall in minnesota. to borrow vernacular from the kids:
i. can't. even.
i find myself stopping at windows, just staring out across the yard. i mean, really ... wouldn't you?
i even managed to squeeze in five minutes with the kids while it was still amazing.
then, minute 5:01:
and at 5:02:
and that was that. today? gray, raining, cool. very fall-like, and the leaves are dropping fast. wonderful, really, but the beauty is fading.
luckily, we managed to make it to the orchard last weekend, when it was still bright and crunchy and golden.
("how tall this fall" used to be cuter.)
hopefully this weekend there will be time to carve these bad boys. next week is a busy one ... often, pumpkins end up a rush job at the last minute.
also, stay tuned next week for a four-year house update. pinterest has garnered our little place a lot of attention, and many questions have come to me about what more we've done since moving in. the house is pretty clean right now, so next week i'll share house pix.
not that i'm complaining - heat and humidity are my two least favorite types of weather - but summers go faster each year. it's crazy.
one minute it's the last day of school ...
and the next 90 days stretch before us like taffy, sticky and stretching longer the more we try to reach the end. then suddenly the days on the calendar are filled with events and camps and swimming and life, and the summer flies by.
every year, i tell you.
this year has been no exception. we just finished the first week of freedom that we've had since june. it was lovely and restful, but also included things like summer homework and dentist appointments and weeding the garden ... things that haven't fit into the schedule until now.
school ended, marc took off for a week in boston, and harp and her bff had picnics and bug hunts ...
while henry and his guys hung out with a buddy who would be moving away by the end of the month.
and then, two weeks into summer break, we headed to new england.
the kids and i flew out to meet marc on friday. he was waiting at the airport with a rental car, then we grabbed our luggage and pointed to the seaport for a lobster roll and a summer stroll along the water.
saturday, we made a list of the boston things we haven't done before, and set out to mark them off. first stop was the skywalk observatory at the prudential building. 360 degree views of my favorite city.
(someday one of those brownstones will be mine. that's the dream, anyway.)
(henry had to pretend to play because his podium wasn't working. he still kicked butt.)
then we walked to the christian science monitor center so i could finally, finally see the maparium, which has been on my to do list for, like, eight years and every trip to boston. click on the link; photos weren't allowed in the maparium, but it was amazing. so cool. even the kids were wowed.
(one of the country's largest pipe organs)
we walked around a little more, got our favorite sushi, etc.
sunday morning was rainy and cold ... perfect day to head to maine.
we kept an eye on the weather and decided to take the scenic route. and by scenic route i mean spend the day in salem, mass.
first was lunch ... and a meltdown from miss harper, which is typical of a meal with harper.
then we got passes to three museums - the witch dungeon museum, witch history museum, and pirate museum. the museums were very interesting ... little, and more than a tad cheesy, but also sad. the whole history of salem left me feeling horrified and outraged by how cruel people can be when they are so narrow-minded and led by fear.
then we just wandered salem. very cool little town: brick streets, lovely homes, dunkin' donuts. and we found a stick installation from artist patrick dougherty.
from salem, we drove the rest of the way to maine, checked into our hotel, then headed out to find some lobster and clam chowder.
monday morning was beautiful, and we had tickets for a whale watching trip out of boothbay harbor.
when i was pregnant with henry, marc and i took a vacation to maine and absolutely fell in love with the coast. it was so nice to be back among the quirky, sweet villages full of saltbox houses and fishing boats, and see a town we hadn't visited the last time. boothbay is charming and touristy and wonderful.
the whale watch boat ride was after lunch, so i told the kids to not eat anything too heavy or greasy. hindsight: i should have picked up some dramamine somewhere.
the boat trip started off great ... it was windy and cold on deck, but the view was beautiful.
once we got out of sight of the shore, though, the water became rougher, and the swells tossed the boat around more. harper wanted to give up on standing on deck and go below to sit down. for an hour, i watched her turn more and more green around the gills. another hour, and henry was below deck with us, also green. and below deck was where there was no fresh air, so the smell of boat fuel was stronger, which triggers marc's migraines, so he stayed above deck. to recap: two hours of bouncing and rolling with two kids who were on the verge of puking, while marc was up top. super fun family activity.
but then: whales!
it took longer than expected to find them - and we had to go about five miles farther out - but there were mama and baby finback. henry didn't want to get up, but harper was feeling a bit stronger, so we watched from the lower deck (just in case) while henry stayed in the warm, stuffy, smelly comfort of the table, sipping a ginger ale. luckily, he managed to see the whales through the window, so it wasn't a total lost cause for him.
the ride back was, thankfully, better. smoother, and tummies were more settled.
once on land, everyone started to feel better. ice cream cones made all the difference.
we spent a little more time exploring boothbay, finding the perfect souvenirs, having what was hands-down the best meal of our entire trip at the boathouse bistro ... a tapas bar, where marc discovered a blackened grilled shrimp with spicy honeydew gazpacho that he loved so much that he ordered two more.
the next day, tuesday, was all about lake winnipesaukee in new hampshire. i was really hoping to bump into bob wiley ... we could have gone sailing.
we didn't find bob. but we did sail. or ... boat. we boated. we're boaters.
marc's aunt and uncle's boat is on lake winnipesaukee, and luckily they were staying on the boat while we were in the area. it was such a fun day, and the kids had a blast.
and the lake ... oh, my ... such a beautiful place. water, trees, mountains ... just breathtaking.
the whole day was relaxing and wonderful.
after a perfect day, a yummy dinner, and a glorious night cruise, we headed back to the hotel.
the next day, we decided to detour through concord on our way back to boston. we took the kids to the concord museum to learn more about the town's role in the revolutionary war and the transcendentalist movement.
what else we learned? paul revere apparently looked like jack black.
(ralph waldo emerson's study)
(henry and his namesake, henry david thoreau)
after the concord museum, we took harper to the louisa may alcott museum. we've been reading "little women", so it was so fun to show her the house that inspired the story, and the rooms of the sisters who inspired jo and amy and beth and meg.
(i may have sneaked a photo of louisa's writing desk. bad girl, i know, but what can you do.)
we also walked past emerson's house ...
and then emerson's grandfather's house.
the grandfather who had a first-person view of the start of the revolutionary war.
the kids were troopers through this whole trip. we aren't exactly "let's go on vacation to relax" people; if there's something interesting to do or see or learn, that's where we go and that's what we do. i wanted the kids to experience where history and literature and philosophy happened, so that when they learn about it in school, it will feel more relatable and real to them. for the most part, they were curious and attentive about it all, and we had some great conversations.
it got too hot to keep wandering concord, though (we'll take them to sleepy hollow cemetery next time), so we drove back into boston, where we had a lovely hotel in cambridge and ate some yummy sushi ...
which henry said looked like "sushi dipped in crushed cheetos", and the next day we flew home.
such a whirlwind, but totally worth it. it was a perfect trip.
and then it was
july was pretty much all swimming, all the time.
there was, though, the one day when marc drove a lamborghini.
i had gotten him a slot at a driving day for christmas, and it was finally time to cash it in.
the car wasn't exactly roomy for a big guy, but he didn't care. he had the. best. time. three laps around an agility course. the only downside was that he couldn't go as fast as he would have liked.
but once that fun day was over ... all swimming. all the time. like, a meet every weekend plus two mid-week meets.
but the kids did awesome and ended the season with some major wins.
and one of the meets was an invitational, so the kids swam at the same time and were able to cheer each other on. which, of course, delighted harper.
harper ended the season with best times, and a great position for making it to the finals meet when fall season rolls around.
henry swam a full roster of events at the minnesota regional finals meet, but struggled with the heat during the three-day outdoor meet. he dropped some of his times, though, and was the 50m free champ with a state-cut time.
which meant the following week was four days of state - prelims in the morning, finals in the afternoon. he swam five relays and the 50 free ... he just missed the top eight in the 50, but he and his relay teams medaled in four of the five relays - an 8th, 7th, 4th, and a 1st place state champ finish.
kinda fun that he's now a state champ in relays two summers in a row :)
i know he was disappointed that he didn't do better individually, but he still has one more year - and two more state meets - in the 15-16 age group, so he's going to do awesome next time. he's so close.
concurrently with all the swimming, harper also attended three camps: one was a "girls in science" camp at the zoo, the second was to lean how to create fashions and fabrics using technology (for which a picture of the back of her was in the newspaper, and she was interviewed for the article, so she's convinced that now she's famous), and the third was to learn how to sew, at the end of which she and her other campmates gave a fashion show to debut the lovely dresses they made.
also during this time of swimming and camps (july was beyond insane), henry took driver's ed. i was doing really well not freaking out, then on the first day, henry got out of my car and there was one of his best friends ... the little boy who came up to henry on the first day of first grade, introduced himself, shook henry's hand, then said, "i think we should be friends" ... and off they went to drivers ed together. gah! heart!! tears!!
and now we have to sign him up for the behind the wheel stuff. and - as luck would have it - he has wheels.
back in may, marc took the man car in for some work and some mods. yadda yadda yadda ... he finally got his car back three days ago. so in the meantime, rather than throw money away with a rental, we went ahead and got a third car. cuz we were going to need one anyway for henry to drive.
so now we have a cute little safe, reliable suburu in the driveway.
also, in the middle of all the camps and swimming and drivers ed and car buying, we got to spend three days with my sister and her family. they were driving back to indiana from fargo, and we just happen to be on that route.
their first day here, we found their personal heaven:
i've never seen so much candy in my life.
(seriously ... chicken & waffles salt water taffy?! chicken & waffles seems like a bad idea in and of itself, but to make it into salt water taffy?? that's just irresponsible.)
we let the kids run off their sugar high in the sprinklers ...
(i don't know what this face is, but i totally recognize it.)
and also the park.
(seriously ... nora's faces ... )
and i got to be the aunt who introduces her niece and nephew to a hilarious video of a corgi twerking; a video they watched about 500 times. (go search for corgi bubble butt twerk on youtube. you're welcome.)
i won Aunt Of The Week with that one.
we also braved mall of america so wyatt could experience legoland ... a trek that about pushed my sister and i into claustrophobic, apoplectic wrecks from the sheer magnitude of humanity in the hallways.
but legoland was a hit, and then there was sushi.
then they had to go home. [sad face]
and ... what else ... oh: we got a king-size bed after nearly 19 years of marriage and cover-stealing (marc) and knee-and-elbow wars (also marc) ...
our garden is churning out monster zucchini ...
i had to have a spot on my face biopsied ...
and now it's august.
hoping for a month of breathing room before the summer is over and we re-enter the school-swimming-craziness routine. the kids head to indiana for some time with the grandparents later this month while marc and i go really crazy and ... clean out his office. should be awesome. and henry starts his first job on wednesday: teaching swimming lessons. i have a feeling our "breathing room" will be not so roomy, but we'll take it.
i was sent a copy of "love the home you have" by melissa michaels, who is behind the blog the inspired room, and have been both devouring it and savoring it, if it's possible to do both. i read a chapter with eagerness, then realize at the end of it that i really want to read it again and take notes. so i do. and i'm going to share some of those notes and thoughts over time, but in the opening pages of her book, this little sentiment drew me in and hooked me, for there are no truer words that describe my relationship and mindset with regards to architecture, design, and the feeling you get when you drive through certain cities and neighborhoods:
when marc and i discuss our "dream" houses, he says he would love to be in something ultra-modern: all concrete and glass and exposed steel and wood. sleek, clutter-free, and technologically superior to the average house. then he asks if i could live in such a house and i say, "sure ... maybe ..."
because the truth is, i want to live in about five different houses.
i want the 100-year-old farmhouse, with beautiful old trees, a split rail fence, overgrown lilac bushes, and a squeaky screen door. windows with glass so old that it's waviness distorts the view. a wide cast iron sink in the kitchen. a deep front porch. a tree swing in the front yard.
but i also want the beautiful old home in the charming small town, with a lovely staircase, leaded glass windows, tall rooms. woodwork that recalls the days when skill mattered. a pedestal sink. period fixtures. a small but charming lot, and walking distance to the adorable town, where i know the name of the bookstore owner, the coffee shop guy, the baker who knows harper prefers bavarian cream donuts while henry prefers glazed.
or maybe by "charming small town" i mean "nantucket." and i will ride my bike to the local market for lobstahs. and keep a jar on a shelf in the kitchen for seashells and sea glass that i find on my walks on the beach.
then again, a lake cottage would be lovely. a small, cozy spot with a beautiful view and lots of trees. where i can drink my morning coffee in a kayak, and sit by the fire in the evening. maybe some exposed beams, a screen porch, bedrooms tucked under angled ceilings of the roofline.
and i can understand marc's attraction to "modern", because there is a certain draw to streamlined simplicity. and if all the windows look at something lovely, and the exposed metal is dark and industrial, and the exposed wood is warm and reclaimed, with life still in it instead of stripped down and shiny, i could see the attraction. as long as the house isn't something that looks like an office building or a sci-fi movie set.
and then there's that part of me that would embrace the industrial, urban aesthetic wholeheartedly if it was in an urban setting ... like a warehouse loft. preferably in boston.
the thing is, i just love houses. and really, location means as much to me - if not more - than the house. because while a dream house is just wood and glass and nails, a dream "home" is the whole package. and truthfully, any home can be transformed into something beautiful, but a crummy location cannot.
on mother's day, i took my family for a walk through one of my favorite areas of minneapolis - a neighborhood near lake harriet. walking through those streets of old homes and large trees always makes me happy. i loved our years in our bungalow, but always wished that it had been a little closer to the lake and on the quieter, lovelier (ie more expensive) side of the highway. the homes are mostly well-kept, and the yards full of beautiful flowers. there is obvious pride of ownership. and every now and then, when we would see one that had seen better days, i would exclaim, "i'll love you!! just let me have you!"
okay: i love my house. we built as close to a perfect house as we could, given constraints of the location and budget at the time. and i really do "love the home i have". however, the location is - while great right now for the kids - not where we want to be. it's too neighborhood-y to be our long-term happy place. we want more age, history. maybe something prettier to look at than a park and the backside of our neighbors' houses. and while i would love to go back to minneapolis, i know we would be equally satisfied somewhere else. we never feel tied to any one place.
i don't know if that's good or bad.
but if our kids stay here, i think we would be happy to stay here, too. but head closer to lake harriet.
because it's lovely.
we toss around new ideas all the time: the coast of oregon, boston, maine, minneapolis, italy (okay ... maybe that one is just me). and every time we talk about a different place, i get a different vision of what we'll live in. i am undaunted by the idea of fixing up something to be just what we want. loving the home you have is easy with a little patience and creativity. but what makes it a home is loving the life it gives you. and for me, that's more about the "where" than the "what."
so, mother's day is coming. again. didn't we just have one of those? i mean, seriously ... moms are celebrated all the friggin' time. enough already ... i don't need any more appreciation showered upon me or offers from others to clean the house for a change, or the family giving me quiet time in my own home without interruption or someone needing a ride somewhere. it's too much! show someone else how much you care for a change!
oh, wait ...
so in honor of the imaginary love-and-gratitudefest that motherhood is, i've put together an imaginary list of things i would love to receive for mother's day:
because i love my purse, but it doesn't close at the top. and every time it falls over, all my stuff falls out. that's getting annoying. and we all know what happens when little annoying things happen throughout mama's day and just keep piling up and piling up ...
truth be told, some sweet handmade cards (that were made with a little time and thought, not made in a rush on sunday morning because no one reminded the kids until then that they needed to have a card for me. not that i'm speaking from previous experience or anything.), lunch at a place i want to go to, a walk around the lake, cooperative and happy picture-taking-time of the kids, and a bouquet of pretty flowers (the ones i like, not the ones marc thinks i like because he actually likes them ahemliliesahem) would suffice, as long as everyone is happy and gets along.
and then leaves me alone with a book for the afternoon.
i have more to write, but for today, there is this:
she is so utterly in love with him. and he is (generally) so very, very good to her.
today she is ten-years-old. double digits. growing too fast. and we said, "whatever you want to do today, you name it!" and her reply?
"i want to have alone time with henry."
and they have been up in her room playing together ever since. laughing, being silly, like old times before he grew up faster than she did and life got less fair (in her mind).
today she is 10. and i look at this photo and think, "it's going to have to be a very special person to be able to win her over, because she will have high, high standards after growing up with her brother."
i hope their bond is forever. i hope he always protects, and she always knows how to voice what she wants and needs.
and listening to them today feels like old times. and it makes it that much easier to accept that she's 10 today. because the alternative? is that in my mind they still look like this ...
and that seems forever ago. and five minutes ago. all at the same time.
happy birthday, sweet girl. you are so very, very loved.
as 2014 drifts away tonight, i'm spending a few final moments on christmas.
when i was a kid, there was always the anticipation of christmas, then the actual holiday; it all seemed to just morph and swell, and i didn't notice the crazed pace of the days preceding it. but now that i'm the adult, and the buying and planning and cleaning and prepping and decorating all fall on me, the month of december seems so short and frenetic.
in my desire to make things lovely and magical, somehow the season also becomes chaotic and stressful; likely because i forget to factor in things like schedules and chores and business trips and swim meets and grocery shopping and laundry and addressing christmas cards, etc.
but all the work is worth it when, at the end, you are sitting in a warm and twinkling home, sipping a cup of coffee and awaiting the arrival of family, and it seems like time can finally slow down so you can enjoy every moment of christmas.
but then the family arrives, and the luggage is brought in, and the bags are deposited, and the food is put away, and the laughter starts, and the kids run around, and suddenly - time goes even faster than it did the day before.
we had four solid days with my parents and my sister and her family. we made sure food was bought and things were made ahead and the plans were for "simple and easy" so that we had more time to just relax and enjoy. it was all very intentional.
and it worked. at least, it worked better than other years. but yet time still went so crazy fast.
monday morning, henry had swim practice. so while he was off doing that, harper and nora watched "my little pony"
while marc blew wyatt's mind with the sheer amount of legos in our basement.
we did puzzles, we hung out, we ate a quick dinner. then henry was off to a current team vs alumni swim meet, and we all got to attend and cheer him on. best part? he raced one of last year's captains in the 100 free and, even though henry didn't win (by a nose), he got a lifetime best :52.70. the crowd (well, OUR crowd) went wild.
after the oldest and youngest went to bed, matt and becca and i pulled out our phones and played several rounds of heads up ... and laughed until we cried.
the next two days were full of games - both board and video (stratego, five crowns, settlers of cattan, tenzi, pokemon, etc.), snacks, wine and more wine, hanging out.
and nora kept an eye on the sky, looking for snow that never came.
we also managed a quick family photo, despite the cold wind.
my mom and sister and i had come up with the idea to get stuff to make ugly christmas sweaters, which we did on christmas eve. it ended up being such a fun activity for everyone that we've declared it our new family tradition.
there was much laughter, enthusiasm, and photo-bombing.
oh, and cookie-making. there was much cookie-making.
then: christmas eve traditions. the stockings, the letters, the reading of "the night before christmas."
followed by the traditional "get the kids to bed because we still have an hour's worth of wrapping and stocking-filling and present-under-the-tree-putting to do!"
three days in, one day to go. it all had been so fun and had gone so quickly. usually, we have only three days altogether, but four was so much better because christmas day goes faster than any other. and it was so good that i took hardly any photos.
i've learned over the years that i prefer to just be in the moment and soak it all in.
we ended the day with our ugly sweater family photos
then put the tired, happy kiddos to bed, pulled out five crowns and a bottle of gin, and capped off a great holiday in style.
as fast as it went, and as great as it was to be together, and as much fun as we had, on december 26th the house was quiet: marc was watching tv, the kids were playing new video games, and i sat alone in the kitchen, drinking a glass of wine and flipping through a new cookbook, while listening to annie lennox sing "georgia on my mind" and "summertime" on vinyl on my new, perfect crosley record player. and it was just as good to enjoy the stillness as it had been to enjoy the chaos.
maybe that's what christmas is all about when you are the adult. the crazy fun is for the kids, but it's a whirlwind for you. but the 26th? that's just for you, the time alone to reflect and be grateful and exhale, and eagerly look forward to the next year.
favorite, because everything about it makes me happy: the crisp air, the atmosphere of things preparing for a long winter's nap, the vibrant leaves against a brilliant blue sky, the vibrant leaves against a moody gray sky, the apples and pumpkins, the baking, the blankets, the scarves and fleece that come out of hiding, halloween, the official start of Getting Into The Holiday Spirit ...
henry headed out on monday morning to begin his high school career. yes i said high school.
remember when he looked like this?
(that would be his first day of first grade. *sob*)
one week in, and all is well. he's finding his way around without trouble. he's figuring out the lunch situation. he hasn't yet been to his locker. and he adores his science teacher.
then, on wednesday, harp began fourth grade.
not gonna lie ... i'm a bit freaked out by how fast my kiddos are growing up. this girl? seems like she was just this girl:
(well ... maybe she hasn't changed all that much.)
but after three days, she declares fourth grade is "awesome." so far, she loves her teacher, her two bffs are in her class, and at some point she'll get to bring home the class guinea pigs for a weekend.
it's all good.
august was a long, long, loooooong month. so i'm pretty sure they are just as happy to be back in school as i am happy to send them there.
we did round out summer vacation with a quick trip to indiana over labor day to celebrate marc's mom's birthday with the fam.
and that was fun. even though i got food poisoning or something the first night there. that was less fun.
and after that we headed to my parents' for a day and a half, and that was fun, too. except for the two hours i spent at the ER with my mom and my grandma, after grandma decided to rearrange her desk with her face. seven stitches later, we were back home.
but the very best part of the whole trip? i finally got to spend time with my lovely friend, jen. a visit that's been in the works for, oh, like three years.
we arrived friday afternoon for dinner and hanging out, then decided hey! why not send the menfolk out to shoot at things on saturday morning, while the womenfolk wander the village and soak up even more time together?
so we did. and it was awesome.
and i felt very anne shirley & diana berry with jen. truth be told, i think our daughters felt a bit like that, too.
jen & i are trying to orchestrate an arranged marriage between her daughter and my son. which wasn't awkward for them at all.
and yes, we got pix of jen and me together. and we agreed that none were shareable. so that's that.
it was just the loveliest way to end the longest month of the longest summer ever. and now? fall. it's cool outside, my kids are back in school ... all is right with the world.
our garden is the gift that keeps on giving ... summer squash. it keeps giving summer squash. incessantly. which is good, we like summer squash. but ... there are only so many times you can eat it as a side dish.
so yesterday marc suggested making soup, and i got on the pinterest to find a recipe. i found this one and it sounded like a winner. a quick trip to the grocery later, and i was ready to go.
we cooked all the veggies, pureed them into golden soupiness, and ... it was okay. a little on the blah side, though. henry didn't even eat one bowl, and he's mr soup.
as we were cleaning up the kitchen and talking about the soup, i said, "so tomorrow, let's tweak it a bit." we had onions, a poblano pepper, leftover grilled chicken ... we figured we could make that pureed yellow stuff chunky and delicious.
oh, did we ever.
new recipe, if you feel so inclined to use up a plethora of summer squash, too:
tweaked summer squash & corn soup
(we doubled the initial recipe. however, after eating round one yesterday, there was probably only the original yield remaining. so those are the measurements i'll give you)
slice the summer squash. shuck the corn and cut the kernels from cobs. once you've removed the kernels, break the cobs in half and set aside. chop the shallots, garlic, and jalapeno. (remove the seeds from the jalapeno if you want less heat.)
in a 5-quart heavy pot, combine all ingredients (including cobs) and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 mins. stir in 2.5 cups water and simmer mixture until squash is very tender, about 15 minutes. discard cobs. in a blender, puree mixture in batches until smooth (fill the blender only halfway, removed the center plug from the cap, and cover the hole loosely with a kitchen towl. start on low, then move up to puree.), transferring each batch to another bowl. season soup with salt and pepper.
you can stop here, or you can add the tweaks:
4-6 chicken tenders, grilled (we seasoned them with trader joe's south african smoke seasoning)
1 white onion
1 poblano pepper
1 ear corn
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp smoked spanish paprika
dice the onion and poblano. (again, remove the seeds for less heat.) shuck the corn and cut off the kernals. chop the zucchini and chicken.
sautee the onion, poblano, and corn in a skillet under tender. add the zucchini and sautee three minutes longer. add the chicken, then add the pureed soup. add the cumin and paprika. let simmer for 20 mins.
spoon into a bowl, top with some shredded monterey jack cheese, some avocado chunks, and a spoonful of salsa (we used homemade ... because our garden is also giving us an overabundance of tomatoes.)