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Good Night, First Night Of July

July 1

So I waited too long to put River in her cute bumble bee dress. Super tired baby girl was not happy to pose for the camera!

Sunset kicked in…

And the mosquitos were held at baby by those thermacell things so we could actually sit outside and enjoy the view.

But Canyon wanted to keep running around the house and whenever we stepped a few feet away from the table the mosquitos attacked.

But it was still beautiful…


Play Date At The Beach

July 1
Sue is my oldest friend. You can read about that here.

Sue, Alyssa and Rachel came out to visit us which is always fun. It is always kind of awesome to watch our kids play together while we reminice about our childhood together.

Rachel is about 4.5 and she thinks Raven’s name is Raisin. I find this delightful. And she is not alone. Carrie’s son Kyle is almost the exact same age as Rachel and he also insists on calling Raven, Raisin. I like to think that when they are all teenagers they will all be friends and that will be his nickname. It’s also fun to sing our own remake of the Violent Femme’s classic mixed with a little Lorraine Hansberry-“let me go on, like a Raisin in the sun, let me go on, big head you know you’re twin 1!”

Alyssa and River…

Unlike me, Rachel has no fear of underwater predators.

Where are Canyon and John? They went to Lake Nebagamon to get me coffee. For the entire trip Canyon would scream bloody murder every time we would even point out the beach across the road. Sigh. Perfect little beach just across the road and he won’t even look at it!


Lift Your Spirits In Duluth

June 30

Trying to keep all three kids entertained and contained at my Dad’s place was getting to be exhausting and the extreme temperatures and monster mosquitos were starting to make us all a little bit crabby leaning toward insane. Usually driving the 40 miles to Duluth seems like too much of a hassle but by 4:30pm on Saturday it seemed like a little drive to heaven. All three kids and Lilo are happy on the road and the van has supreme air conditioning… so we loaded everyone up and headed North to Duluth.

We hesitated with the idea of braving the hordes of tourists that are usually found in Canal Park on a beautiful Saturday night in summer. We decided to give it a try anyway.

First stop was the new Playfront Park. I had fond memories of the park when it was first built in the late 80’s as a giant wooden structure of towers and tunnels and slides. The new playground is all modern and metal and “fancy” and I totally don’t like it. Great location but it didn’t have the personality of the original. But Canyon liked running around and the twins always appreciate time on the swings.

The park grew tiresome so we left the van in the parking lot and loaded the team up in our mega stroller and strolled over to Canal Park. Which was busy but not as crowded as it should have been for a summer Saturday. The week before the region was hit with devastating floods and I guess potential tourists thought the city washed into the lake because it was really pleasant. I felt guilty being happy about it because I know this had to be a huge hit for the local economy. Even now Duluth is running multiple ad campaigns to try to get the tourists back.

But for us it was great! We hit the tourist area and stopped at our favorite fried food shack, Crabby Bill’s for cheese curds and mini donuts. I read somewhere that the food stand had new owners and while they kept the name and the menu they radically shrunk the portion sizes. It was the tiniest amount of rabbit poop sized cheese curds I have ever seen for $3.50. And since they were required to have 12 donuts in a dozen they seemed to have found a way to make the tiny donuts skinny and bland. So sad because we had so been looking forward to them. Oh well. No more money for you Crabby Bills! And let me take a break from this post to go write a Yelp review because I am still annoyed with you.

So after our kind of snack we walked further up the lake walk. The patio of our favorite hotel was open and they had a singer/songwriter, James Moors, performing so we decided to stop. Canyon LOVED him. LOVED. Canyon danced on tables, rushed the stage-basically had a blast listening to the music.

It was one of those beautiful pink sunset nights on Lake Superior with great music,great family and great scenery. The hotel turned on the fire pits for s’mores. We made some!

We could see a freighter sailing over the horizon, heading for port, so we made our way back to the Aerial Lift Bridge to welcome her in to the largest inland port in the world.

We claimed a spot on the pier to wait for the big enterance…

And we waited.

And we waited.

The bridge sounded the incredibly loud horn and the ship responded in kind.

And just as the ship was approaching the light house and about to enter the channel the ship changed course at the last possible second. It cut hard to the right. I have never seen a ship pull out that fast, totally last minute. It must have been about to hit the channel walls or something horrible because it was a crazy move. The vessel then had to cruize up Park Point and turn around back out on the lake and try it again.

By this point we had already been standing around for 15-20 minutes and I knew from experience that it was going to take at least another 20 minutes for the ship to make another attempt. But we had started this adventure together and we were going to stick it out.

So we waited some more.

John went and picked up our Famous Dave’s to go order and I kept kids and dog happy with snacks and beverages.

Finally American Integrity made it’s grand entrance into Duluth!

By the time that darn boat went through we were all exhausted but we still had to trek back to the van. Our dreams of a BBQ picnic were dashed by worn out kids so we loaded everyone up and drove over the bridge to Superior. Pulled over by Barkers Island, thinking we could still have a picnic in the dark but the mosquitos ruined that idea too. So we ate in the van by the dashboard light before making the drive back out to the woods.

Even with the ship delays, tired kids and cold food we still had a great night.


Sad Little Tiger Doesn’t Like Lake Minnesuing

June 29

Dad & Mary live right across the road from a perfect little beach. Since Canyon had such a great time splashing at the boat lunch on the Upper St. Croix we thought he would be totally thrilled with the beach on Lake Minneusing. Grandma Mary said she would watch the twins so we could have some quality time alone with Canyon in the water.

Nope. For some reason unknown to us Canyon went into a complete and total panic fueled breakdown. It was sad. And disappointing. And we tried to wait it out by sitting on the shore and watching the water.

Didn’t work. We had the whole park to ourselves but Canyon wanted nothing to do with the water. A woman and her 7 year old grand daughter showed up and I thought maybe he would want to play in the water with her. Nope.

I was happy to finally have someone else in the water though. I love to swim but I don’t like to swim in natural bodies of water alone. Not because of the whole buddy system drowning thing. But because I am afraid of being eaten.

Yes. Eaten. I was raised in the waters of Lake Superior and assorted inland lakes of Wisconsin and Minnesota but I have never felt comfortable. Because I think something is going to eat me. Maybe it’s from the not so urban legends of my childhood-where children would lose toes and fingers and other parts to monster-sized muskies and sinister sturgeon. Maybe it’s the movies that my older brother traumatized me with like “Jaws”, “Pirahna” and “Alligator”. Or maybe it’s just my over active imagination powering my paranoia all on it’s own. But whatever the inspiration, the fear is there. I can picture what I look like underwater from a predators perspective.

Watching the little girl on her cheap inflatable raft I could totally picture what it would look like if a prehistoric alligator lunged out of the water, just like in “Lake Placid.” I thought about what I would do in that situation. Would I rush to save her? Would I let John get in the water to save a stranger from a man eating monster, possibly leaving me alone to raise our children?

I think too much.

Then the Grandma got in the water and I felt like my odds of getting chomped were lower-now 1 in 3. So I went into the water. And I floated. And looked up at the sky. And breathed deep. And just soaked in the beauty of it all.

Then I thought about crocodiles again. And stood up really fast and looked around for eyes or trails in the water.

We tried to get Canyon in the lake again. We tried holding him while we walked into the water but he screamed. But he kind of liked it when I swung his legs in the water so we got the bright idea that maybe if John held his legs and I held his arms and we swung him in the water he would have fun. So we tried it. And he did like the first pass but then the wave hit him and swamped his little face and we were done for the day. Yes. We are bad parents.

Sad little tiger boy…

So we gave up and drove to Lake Nebagamon for coffee and the only things that were chomped were some baked goods.


Red Lake-I Love It At Mary Jane’s

This past winter we had a great time at Mary Jane’s for a winter bonfire. Now it was our chance to experience her beautiful home in all it’s summer glory!

My Dad makes fun of us for all the crap we have to pack up just to spend a day at someone’s house 30 minutes from home. But with three little ones and a dog you have to be prepared for feedings, weather changes, diaper leaks, etc. And you have to keep them entertained. So we brought the pop up playhouse!

The Babes were completely entertained by toys, trees, grass, moss and the patio flowers. Mary Jane is an excellent hostess and instead of being frustrated that River and Raven were pulling off the blooms from her petunias she just thanked them for dead heading her plants!

Canyon on the other hand wants to run and explore. And run some more. And since we are in the woods, near a road and on a lake we need to follow him. Oh, and that whole we don’t want him to break anything belonging to our hostess thing kept us busy too. So John and I take turns. One person gets to relax, drink a beer and have some food while the other follows Canyon around. Then we tag in and switch. It works for us.

Then it was time for a ride on the pontoon boat! We didn’t have twin size life jackets so John stayed on shore with The Babes while Canyon, Lilo and I went out on the lake. Canyon liked it. And then he fell asleep.

Lilo loves a good boat ride.

Delicious food on the grill and then a smooth sunset complete with loons.

And mosquitos. At some point I will have to tell you about the mosquitos.


The Dark Canyon Rises

He is the Bat Man!


Upper Lake St. Croix

We filled up our jugs with fresh spring water and laid out the blanket for a picnic of Maple Fried Cinnamon Rolls, apple sauce and Beef Jerky.

Canyon decided to check out the water at the boat launch…

I decided to check out the snails…

I had forgotten all the different types of snails you will find in a Wisconsin lake. I was suddenly flooded with all kinds of memories of looking for snails and frogs and turtles. So much of my childhood was spent in lakes like this. That’s what I want for my kids. Long summer days in the woods and lakes, looking for rocks and snails and minnows.

John, Lilo, River and Raven played up by the trees.

Finally. The vacation day we were looking for!


A Flat Start To Vacation

Our vacation was scheduled to start on Sunday but we knew that with John working the late shift on Saturday there would be no way we could get on the road at a decent hour. We would take Sunday to get our act together and take it on the road on Monday morning. Then suddenly it was 5pm and we were still loading the van.

SO we left on Tuesday, June 26 at 8am. We are blessed with children and a dog who are all really good at road trips. Raven had a rough start and we needed to stop not far over the Wisconsin boarder and to take him out and have a cuddle but after that it was smooth sailing.

Things that made the trip easier-Playgrounds! iPhone app from “Parents Magazine”. We wanted to break in Wisconsin Dells but wanted a nice, free playground that we could sit outside with Lilo and feed everyone while getting some energy out. Pulled up the application, it found our location and gave us directions to a nice park that was just what we were looking for. The gigantic Trenta Iced Coffee from Starbuck’s kept me happy and overly alert behind the wheel. Squeezable apple sauce is a modern miracle that made filling baby tummies so much easier.

We pulled in to Dad & Mary’s at a respectable hour and were settled in long before our usual 2am arrival time. Canyon immediately started running around the gigantic yard to explore all the fun things.

The next morning we enjoyed a sunny breakfast on the deck…

Great start to first full day of vacation! Our first goal was to drive 30 miles to Minong, Wisconsin for our favorite bakery and beef jerky outlet. I love the Maple Fried Cinnamon Rolls at Henson’s IGA and the idea of driving an hour, round trip, to get them seems totally reasonable. The bakery is so popular that the good stuff usually sells out and we have learned to call ahead and ask if they will hold a few packages for us. So we load the kids and dog into the car and hit the highway. We get about 8 miles from home when we need to stop for gas and coffee.

That’s when John heard the horrible hissing sound coming from our tire. A chunk of metal is sticking out and the air is leaking fast. We think that if we stop for air at the BP by County Rd B we could air up and then make it back home to wait for road side assistance. Waiting at Dad & Mary’s seemed much more pleasant on an 86 degree day than being stuck along the road somewhere with 3 kids and a dog.

We nervously make the drive, worried that we will end up on the side of the road or that we would totally destroy the tire. Make it to BP only to learn that they don’t have an air station. Damn. And now the tire is completely flat and we are stuck. The good news is that we had just purchased a AAA membership from Groupon so road side assistance was free, just an hour away.

Luckily the air was working in the van even though we weren’t moving and the kids were amazingly patient. John and I are not so patient but iPhones are amazing time killers. Then the guy showed up and we moved out to the parking lot while he worked.

Back on the road and faced with the quest for tire repair. Drove over to Solon Springs to see if we can have it repaired. On the way we notice that there is a helicopter at the tiny airport and we make a note to stop on our way back so Canyon can see it close up. He LOVES helicopters but has never seen one on the ground. Get to Solon and a mechanic pulled a freaking box cutter blade out of our tire! Perfect puncture, if by perfect you mean a puncture that totally destroyed the tire beyond repair. Great. Solon Springs doesn’t have our tire so we drive on to Minong to get our donuts and try another garage. We get New Glarus Beer, Jack Link’s Beef Jerky and Maple Fried Cinnamon Rolls but no tire. Sigh. Our entire day is going to be eaten up with tire replacement.

We get back on the highway and decide to stop at the airport to see the helicopter. As we are pulling up we see that it is actually going to take off! This is extremely exciting for all of us.

We get out of the car to watch…

I think the pilot noticed us and put on a bit of a show, flying around overhead for a minute before leaving…

That was exactly what we needed to brighten our spirits after the depressing tire episode so we decided to have a bit of a break at the local spring where we get our water…