Sunday, June 28, 2009


Mom was able to get some free tickets to Valleyfair for all of us so Saturday was the big day. Our kids have been BEGGING to go to this amusement park each summer, but Jake has never been tall enough to go and we didn't want to deal with the "unfairness of it all" when he sat on the sidelines as we all went on rides. When Jake told friends he was going to Valleyfair they measured him at exactly 48 inches - the requirement for many rides so he was extremely excited.

This doesn't mean he could go on everything - and that first ride he couldn't go on did result in a couple tears and pouts, but he got over it and the day was fairly smooth.

Fairly. The

We got there around 10:30am. We eased into things by hitting the Merry-Go-Round first. Next on the list was "The Enterprise". I loved this in high school. My dad (who can't do many spinning rides) loved this. I talked Maddie and Mike into going on it also. Afterwards I looked at my dad...who looked as bad as I felt. I was ready to take a hiatus from rides as of about 10:45.

Next was bumper cars...just the thought of hitting or getting hit made me want to throw up. Luckily the next few rides Mike could handle with the kids while I did my best to recuperate. Really though, by about 11:30 I was ready to not ride on anything again and even told my mom that if I sat there all day without going on a ride, I would not feel bad in the least.

In the meantime our fearless children wanted to try just about everything. On the list was the "Power Tower" Mike, dad and Maddie went on this one. The other three of us thought they were crazy. We were right. This slowly took them up into the air and then suddenly dropped them. They handled if fairly well, but it wasn't something anyone was begging to do again.

After that we wanted to find a ride Jake could/would go on. Jake and mom had been eyeing the "Extreme Swing" ride the entire time we were sitting on the sidelines of the Power Tower.

I said there was no way I was going on that ride. But they were getting more and more excited with my mom saying to Jake, "I will go on that ride with you! I think it looks AWESOME!"

Here's what you should know about my mom. She is able to go on all the rides that my dad can't go on. Whenever we went to Valleyfair as kids, she could/would go on anything. If I remember correctly she LOVED the Corkscrew when it first went up. The weird thing is - she's totally afraid of heights. She has trouble on a step-ladder.

So back to the swing...Mom's gung-ho to take Jake on this and telling him there's absolutely no problem. So, they all went to get in line - all of them. I said I'd try to grab some pictures while I sat safely and without much motion on the sidelines. About 5 minutes after getting in line I see an employee walking a lady out of the line...wait...that lady was my mom. She came over shaking her head and said there was NO WAY she was getting on that ride after seeing it up close. I don't blame her. I don't think anyone else did after they got off either. Both kids said that was their LEAST favorite ride of the day.
Finally we got lunch and things started to look up (at least for me) after that.

We headed to "Thunder Canyon" where we were sure to get drenched. The kids had been begging all morning long to go on a water ride so they could get wet.

Be careful what you wish for!

Five of us were soaked. My dad was a little wet, but somehow managed to be in that one chair that just missed getting all the splashes. It was ridiculous, really how dry he looked compared to the rest of us. I think that Jake and my mom were hit the hardest. Both kids were shivering by the end.
We did walk through the Kiddie Park and came across a ride that looked like a small version of the Power Tower. Then I leaned over and whispered to Jake, "You are the only one out of all of us that could ride on this...". His face lit up and he said he definitely wanted to go on it. He at least got off it with a gigantic grin - can't say that for the rest of the Power Tower crew.

We did have to walk over to the other side to get the "Antique Cars". Both kids wanted to drive so the boys were in one auto and the girls in another. Men drivers....somehow the boys managed to stall out their car. This, in turn, caused a 4-car pile up behind the girls' car. Dad ended up getting out, walking across the grounds and getting an employee who was probably wondering what happened to all the cars they had sent out.

We thought we'd end up with the "Wild Thing" roller coaster. Jake did not want to go on this (he informed us he would probably go on it when he was 8 or 9). Dad said his stomach was settled by that point, so he may as well shake things up again, and joined Mike, Maddie and me. Honestly, I wasn't totally excited about this ride....that is one steep drop...but I wanted to say I'd tried it. It really wasn't that bad. Actually, it started to slow down and make that clicking noise these rides make when they are nearing the end. I was surprised by how short the ride had been and was sitting by dad and said, "Reall..." and then the earth dropped out from under me. And we started all these little hills and a dark cave and I was laughing so hard from the shock of not being done that I could barely figure out what we were doing. This turned out to be Maddie's favorite ride by far.

After 8 hours we ended up giving each kid one choice of a ride before leaving. Maddie went with my dad on the "Wild Thing" again. Jake chose the "Corkscrew"...his favorite ride of the day. Mike had gone on this the first time with him. I never liked it in high school and wasn't too fond of twisting and turning after the morning. However, Mike had just downed a greasy Pronto Pup and said there was no way he could go on it. So Jake and I got in line and buckled in. I turned to Jake and said, "I just want you to know that I'm ONLY going on this because I love you." He laughed and said I was so funny.

As we were leaving we passed by "The Wave". Mom said this would be a really fun ride to end on. Of course, we had all just about dried up from Thunder Canyon, but we all got in line. There isn't much to this ride except the GIANT wave the boat creates at the end. Even dad couldn't escape getting wet on this ride. And mom's reaction? She said, "Oh! Wasn't that just beautiful!?!" Really, she thought seeing the water go up and come down was lovely. So, she convinced all but Mike to go on it again to which Maddie replied, "Grandma! I just LOVE YOU!! You are SO persuasive!!"

And that finally did end our day. I hadn't been to Valleyfair for close to 20 years and at 10:45a.m. I would have told you that if it had been another 20 years before going again, I wouldn't have been disappointed. But, the day ended up working out well and while I don't really care if I go again this summer, I won't pass up another opportunity to go again another summer.

But Mike and I may have to "Rock, Paper Scissors" which rides we are going to chaperone the kids on.

Thanks, Mom (and Cargill!).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Father's Day Oops

A couple weeks ago the kids and I went to the Japanese Garden in Bloomington at Normandale Community College. I grew up in Bloomington and this is where tons of people went to get prom pictures or senior pictures taken. I'd never been there.

Because I knew we had a large gift coming, I thought we needed something personal to give to Mike...and cheap. He works from home so he eats lunch with us everyday and obviously knows how his kids are growing. But, he has a photo of the two of them hanging up in his office from about three years ago. So, we thought we would update that for him.

Below are the shots that were taken. The kids did fairly well not getting antsy. I learned a few more things about taking photographs (or rather, I put recently acquired information into practice). And we managed to put together some pictures that we could give to Mike for Father's Day.

Except we didn't. We totally forgot to pick them up from Sam's Club until Monday.

And these are the collages I put together for him to hang in his office. And yes...I realized after getting it back that I spelled "Beautiful" wrong on Madison's sheet. Ugh. Mike thought it was hysterical since that bugs me so much. But he totally agreed with me that he would have never caught that mistake if I hadn't told him...he's one of the worst spellers ever.

PS: Grandpa and Grandmas have a picture coming to them. Aunts and Uncles will have to bookmark this page.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mr. Right

Jake hates being wrong. Actually - it's not just that, but he just plain won't admit when he IS wrong.

Mike and he have had an ongoing debate as to the cost of a Wii system. Despite Mike showing him ads, Jake still maintains that he's seen them advertised for a certain amount.

Sunday night as we were in the waiting line at Dairy Queen I told the kids that it was our anniversary Monday. I said, "Guess how many years we've been married."

Maddie told Jake to go first so he said, "12 years."
Maddie guessed 13 years.

I said, "It's 13 years. Maddie is right."

Jake got a determined look on his face and said, "No she isn't." I sighed - here we go again - and told him she was.

He said, "No she isn't! I said 12 years. You've been married for 12 years."

I looked at Mike who was shaking his head as he said, "You are both right. TODAY we are married 12 years. TOMORROW we are married 13 years."

Mom...where does he get this????

Monday, June 22, 2009


In trying to decide what activities we were going to take on for the kids this summer, Mike and I were trying to come up with something that we could all enjoy. We've talked about golf in the past and decided this was the summer for lessons.

Mike did some research and we hunted for used clubs for the kids. However, he found a company that designs clubs that can be increased in length as needed to a certain point. After doing the math, we decided to go this route. The clubs arrived last week. Both kids were VERY excited to try them out.

So, lessons have begun. Mike is our instructor. He mostly learned from his uncle who is a golf-pro in Davenport and he was on his high school team. I'm the backseat driver. I'm really probably more of a hindrance than a help. Mike knows what he's talking about and what to look for. I know the basics: head down, knees bent, don't try to kill the ball.

Last week Mike started teaching them the basics in our front yard. Yellow balls were flying (or rolling) everywhere. He moved from one kid to the next and back again.

After that, the kids were given their first putting our family room. Note: We have now instituted the household rule that the ONLY club to be swung in the house is the putter and ONLY if putting. One of the first rules was that putting doesn't involve a full swing.

Saturday we made the big move to Water's Edge, the local par 3 golf course. We bought three buckets of balls and hit the driving range. Both kids thought they would just be hitting balls the entire time. Not so. Our golf pro said that there had to be at least 5 practice swings between balls. We soon figured out how long the kids could last without a break, then Mike would get to practice his swings or I would take a turn.

The kids had goals of their own. There was a pond on the side where we were; this was the "hole" they were aiming for. Maddie was excited to have dunked four balls, and Jake was slightly satisfied with two balls.

Three buckets of balls (plus all the practice swings) is a lot to go through so we were out there awhile. But both kids were slightly disappointed when we didn't hit the putting range afterward. I think Mike didn't want them to get burned out. Or maybe Mike didn't want to get burned out.

Either way, our first lessons have been a success. Our goal is that by the end of the summer we all will be good enough to try a round at Water's Edge.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Biggest Surprise!

Happy Father's Day!

I now understand Mike's crazy eagerness to give gifts early. I managed to keep his Father's Day gift a secret for 20 days. There were several times that I started to say, "I can't wait until you see..." and then would catch myself and say some lame thing like, "...the color of the flowers outside."

Let's backup. Mike has been dreaming of a certain grill for about a year now. Really, his grill has been on the decline longer than that, but a grill gets put pretty low on the totem pole when you are finishing a basement. Or when your wife gets a gigantic piano. Anyway, he's had a printout of it sitting on his desk for a long time. He's made notes about it, talked to different places about, and looked it up on the Internet for hours.

And he really does ask for so little. I almost have to beg him to leave the house and do something he enjoys - "Please! Go play golf!" "What? You want to go out with friends from work?!? Please - have some fun!" I just for once wanted to be able to pull off a gigantic surprise with something I KNEW he would love.

So I did my shopping and got his grill ordered in early June. I had to set the delivery for Friday since they unfortunately don't deliver on Sundays. Thursday I set the time for 9:30 and called my sister and dad to try to come up with a way to get Mike out of the house so it could be delivered (a small hurdle to have your husband work from home in this situation). We came up with a plan that instead of having Mike leave (virtually impossible) then I would tell him that the kids and I were going to be building a giant fort on the deck on Friday. This would hopefully keep him from coming upstairs if he heard any loud clanging going on while it was being delivered.

Friday morning arrived. I had let the kids in on the secret Thursday night and BEGGED them to please work hard not to let it slip. They did great. At 8:30 I delivered coffee to him in his office just to look out his window and see where I needed to place any large pool items to block the view of the stairs. At about 8:50 Mike was wandering around the backyard and I couldn't figure out what he was doing. So, I casually asked him if he had meetings that day and he replied that he actually didn't have any. I walked back in the house in a small panic. No meetings meant he could be walking around whenever and not glued to his office! At 9:10 he came in and I asked what he planned for work and he said not much, except he had to go downtown at some point to get something. I about did a jump for joy, but I casually said, "Really? I think you should go now." He just looked at me and asked why and I played it off that he should get it done early so he had the rest of the day free without the trip hanging over his head. He said he had thought the same thing. The entire time of this conversation he spent super-gluing some little knob for the diving board. After a precious 30 seconds I grabbed it from him and said, "Don't worry...I'll finish this." He grabbed his bag and we were closing the garage door by about 9:15. I called up my sister and dad and started screaming with joy about how great this was going to work out!!

Maddie wanted to know when we were actually going to build the fort.

Once I explained there wasn't going to actually BE a fort that day (had to promise it would happen some day) I pretty much paced the floor. I knew I had about an hour before I could start to expect Mike home. Of course, the delivery guys were about 10 minutes late and apologized profusely, but they got this grill upstairs, took out the old one and the kids and I raced to Target to get batteries for the lights on the grill. (We literally ran through the parking lot with Maddie yelling, "I've never done this never let us run in a parking lot!" and Jake yelling, "Umm...this is kind of embarrassing!") We cruised home, got the batteries changed out and sat down.

10 minutes later Mike walked through the door. We had all the blinds closed and told Mike he had to come out and see the amazing fort we had made. I did manage to videotape the results; very poor quality - it's mostly for the audio. But I wanted to get it on tape how LITTLE he gets excited about things. And when we watched it together - we agreed that this reaction is EXTREMELY excited for Mike. He did admit that he was about to say some words, but realized we had two kids standing by us, so he kept it "G".

I wish I could lavish gifts on him like this every week. He would deserve every one of them.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fuh'-get About It Fridays!

My friend Jonda introduced me to this blog. This lady is a photographer, so I mostly go to see her photos and dream of someday taking pictures like hers. But, she is kinda funny too, so I do skim through her posts. She has a blog some Mondays where she reviews what most moms would be horrified to admit they did during the prior week. I thought it sounded kind of cathartic so I may try to do a few of them. The first being today.

1. I may have turned on the iron, set out all the clothes to be ironed, then walked over to my computer to check blogs/emails while it warmed up. 20 minutes later I may have walked back to the iron and realized not only had it warmed up, but had shut off after the auto-7 minute use delay.

2. It just might have taken me 30 minutes to realize Jake didn't call me after arriving at his friend's house that is less than a 5 minute walk away.

3. It's possible that I jumped the gun on assuming our dryer was kaput. It wasn't drying anything after one cycle. I might have brought Mike into the laundry room to look at it and he might have just stared at me and turned the knob from "delicate" to "normal" and walked back out shaking his head.

4. When a large box arrived for Maddie or Jake, I may have secretly wished it was for Maddie just so that Jake would have to learn the art of patience. I know to be careful what you wish for so I might have only wished this because I knew a second box would be arriving for Jake later in the week.

5. There's a slight chance that I went out and left the front hose on a bush to water it, despite the fact that there was a chance for rain that day (who actually trusts weathermen?). 5 hours later Mike might have come inside (from the rain) and asked how long I had been watering the bush. "Bush?....?....!!!!"

And now - having reviewed the list I realize it was quite a scatter-brained week for me personally. There might have been some parenting moments that weren't stellar, but apparently I have no problem forgetting about them!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hopeful Signs?

So, Mike has been hard at work trying to save our front tree. Last weekend he was digging up the rocks and dirt around the tree again. We had visited Minnesota Valley again and talked with Bernie (we had his name wasn't Jerry. And we decided Bernie is a much more fitting name for the tree expert there). We had even brought pictures along of what the roots looked like. It turns out we had what looked to be some roots actually growing around the tree - in essence strangling itself.

So, Mike dug down and proceeded to start cutting off roots. Bernie had suggested one particular root to cut and remove. When Mike did that, it revealed another root underneath. He wasn't sure if he should cut that one too, but it really looked suspicious. So he went for it. He figured there's a 50/50 chance this tree is dying anyway....

When he cut that root away he said it was almost like it sprung out and uncoiled itself.

We have noticed some new growth on the tree. This is our hopeful sign...the new growth has leaves that are twice as big as what had already grown this spring/summer.

Bernie told us not to give up on this tree quite yet. He said by fall we should know if it will be worth keeping for next summer or whether we should start saving our money for a new tree in the spring.

I'm really tired of planting trees, so keep your fingers crossed that it will live.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Two Down

Jake ended up at the doctor's office today. He's had a fever for a couple days and is dragging around. He's slept a lot which is totally uncharacteristic. Unfortunately the strep test came back negative. I was hoping at least it would be positive and we could fix something. So, he's been watching t.v. or movies for the last couple days.

Today Mike was supposed to be downtown at a meeting, then volunteering somewhere through his company. That isn't happening either. Currently he's passed out on the couch next to Jake. His allergies hit him pretty hard last night. I'd show you a picture, except I like the guy and would like to continue our loving relationship. Showing a picture of him at this point would not make that possible.

I'm thinking of quarantining Madison from the house. She's currently helping Tracy with her garage sale. Maddie and I might hide out upstairs when she gets back.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cleaning Machines

Mike was up at 6:40 this morning to be to the Runchey's to help with their new fence. I didn't have to play for church today so the kids and I lounged around all morning. Maddie read in bed, Jake read downstairs and I was reading/getting dressed/moving slow. At 11am I decided we should eat something and after that get to work.

So, we started cleaning. Jake's finally growing accustomed to the idea that he is in charge of his room and that we (Mike and I) are not responsible for cleaning it. He used to wail, scream, stomp his feet and pout with his arms folded. This morning he just went upstairs without saying a word and got to work. There are some things you miss as your kids get older. The whining and crying stages are not in that category!!

I went to work downstairs and by the time I got upstairs to check on them, I found Jake in his room:

Apparently to get through it all he had to dress for the part.

Both kids were released from my custody at 3pm today to go enjoy the rest of the day with friends. They deserve it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Five Wee Trees

After school on Wednesday, Mike and I put the kids to work. We had five trees delivered to our backyard and they needed to get in the ground.

Jake and Mike started working on the first one together:

Maddie and I worked on another project that I'll post about later. After ours was completed, I headed over to work with the boys. Maddie headed out to play with some friends. Jake didn't want to stop helping Mike and me so he continued to try his hand at every bit of planting he could. Towards the fifth tree Mike and I were getting tired of the process and attempted to jump in and handle a couple things before Jake realized what stage we were at. This was met with the utmost resistance on Jake's part. He was not willing to share "his jobs" with us.

Below is Mike putting the finishing touches on tree #2. These are called Norway Maples; we purchased four of these. (And shame on my 100% Norwegian mom who had never heard of these!) They will not get very wide which is good because there is roughly 10 feet of space before the roots would run into the pool. Kudos to Mike for spending hours researching trees. I'm really not sure what he's going to do with his free time now. Kudos to me for not strangling him when we went to figure out where to place them. Mike is a planner. In the process of decided where to plant these, we had to figure out how wide they were going to grow, at what point the branches may/may not overlap each other, and what parts of the outer view we would be blocking. This was figured out with stakes, rocks, measuring tapes and reference notes. Toward the end of this long process he literally couldn't decided between where to place one tree...a span of 12 inches. I just started laughing and looked him in the eye and said, " can't plan nature." But he sure as heck gave his best effort to doing just that.
This is the other type of tree we planted. We already have one in our back corner. I can't think of what the name of this one is. But, it has these dark pretty leaves all year round and doesn't change color in the fall. I think it's a fairly slow growing tree.

This is the one we already have in our other corner. I believe we are going into our fourth summer with this tree. I think it will be awhile before the above tree stops looking like a character from a Dr. Seuss book.

In fact, it will be awhile before any of them are providing shade or privacy. We thought we had done a pretty good job of getting some decent sized trees. Then we got up to our deck and I turned around. We realized at that point we really have a Poppa tree and five baby trees.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Last Day Reactions

The kids arrived home from school at their 3:20 time. Jake ran off the bus to me and jumped up to give me a giant hug because he was so excited for the last day. We were spinning around with excitement over the beginning of summer.

I looked up to see Maddie dragging herself down the street and crying. I thought she had a headache and felt bad that it had happened on the last day when it was supposed to be such a fun day. But nope. I asked what was wrong and she said she missed her friends. School got out at 3:10. It had been 10 minutes.

I think we have officially started into those tween years I've heard so much about.

One Last Time...

Today I was up clapping and whooping and hollering that it was the last day. Maddie smiled a small grin and hopped up for breakfast. Jake was already downstairs laying on the couch and I tousled his hair with a, "Hooray it's the last day!" and he just looked at me and dragged himself into the kitchen for breakfast.

On the way to the bus stop for the last time this year I snapped this picture:

It was the third in a series. I finally said, "Really? I'd be like this..." and proceeded to wave my hands wildly in the air. I got the above response.

And then the bus was gone for one last time this year. I have 6 hours, 46 minutes left of alone time. Better get hoppin'.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Pusher

We are still in this love-hate relationship with the tree out front. If you remember to last year, it suddenly stopped growing. (See original post here) Very frustrating and has resulted in multiple trips to multiple nurseries to find out the problem.

Saturday Mike headed to Minnesota Valley where we have met the tree expert, Jerry. Jerry is slightly odd, but this man knows his trees. He handed Mike a box and said, "When you are at the point of cut it or kill it, this is your last option."

So, Mike cut off the last remaining dead branch which resulted in our tree now having what feels like a 10 foot clearance...

This small box contained three small fertilizer pegs. Mike had to drill holes into the trunk of the tree, then insert these little pegs.

When I asked how they worked he explained that when they soaked up the water, the fertilizer would go straight through the tree's system.

That's when we both realized he sounded like a drug dealer.

Of course, if this tree doesn't grow he'll break it's limbs and have it whacked. And then he'll just end up sounding like a mobster.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Little Dips

Today I think I'll tag-team where Tracy left off on her blog.

After digging holes in their backyard for their soon-to-be-fence the crew came here where we had scarfed down some pizza so we could head outside before it rained.

Austin was ready so fast I didn't even see him get outside. He was chaperoned though (before anyone thinks four adults let him run amuck around a pool). Ellie was next in her cute little suit. But the kicker was when Tracy attempted to put goggles on her.

We all had a few chuckles over that one. Ellie wasn't thrilled with having them on, but she was less thrilled when anyone approached her to take them off. She figured it out on her own shortly enough. Rob tried them on after that. There's no picture, unfortunately, but rest assured we all now know who Ellie gets her stunning goggle look from.

And it was Riley's first time in the pool. Mike and I tag-teamed with Riley while Rob and Tracy tag-teamed with Austin and Ellie. Clearly we had the easier job! Riley did pretty well. She had a constant look of "what size bathtub is this?" (Because I'm sure that's the full sentence every 9-month old puts together.) But, she got excited enough to kick around and was splashing by the end of the adventure. As someone who wants to be the favorite aunt, hopefully she puts those skills to use during the next bath session at home!

And then it was time to get everyone out. Quickly. It was COLD. There was a good, chilly breeze and none of us wanted to be out of the 87 degree water longer than necessary!